Graco is recalling nearly 3.8 million car safety seats because children can get trapped by buckles that may not unlatch. But the company has drawn the ire of federal safety regulators who say the recall should include another 1.8 million rear-facing car seats designed for infants. The recall covers 11 models sold from 2009 through 2013. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration warned that the problem could make it "difficult to remove the child from the restraint, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire or other emergency." But NHTSA also criticized Graco in a letter dated Tuesday, saying the recall improperly excludes infant car seats with the same buckles. Both the company and NHTSA have received complaints about stuck buckles on the infant seats, the agency said. Graco said its tests found that food or beverages can make the harness buckles in the children's seats sticky and harder to use over time, and infants don’t get food or drinks on their seats like toddlers do. It said there have been no reports of injuries due to the defect.
The company will send replacement buckles for free to owners who registered their seats — including infant seats. Owners who didn't register their seats but want free replacement buckles can call the company's consumer hotline at 800-345-4109 or visit its website. The recalled models include Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70.
In documents sent to NHTSA, Graco estimated that less than 1 percent of the seats involved in the recall have had buckles that were stuck or difficult to unlatch. NHTSA, in documents filed last year, said it received 80 complaints about the seats.