DETROIT - 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 by Graco Children's Products Inc. of Atlanta. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration warned 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.
"Some of these consumers have had no choice but to resort to the extreme measure of cutting the harness straps to remove their child from the car seat," the NHTSA letter 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. The recalled models are: Comfort Sport, Cozy Cline, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smart Seat, Argos 70, Nautilus and Nautilus Edge.
The company will send free replacement buckles to owners who registered their seats. Owners who didn't register can call 800-345-4109 or visit consumer firstname.lastname@example.org.Rear-facing infant seats aren't being recalled because infants don't get food or drinks on their seats, Graco spokeswoman Ashley Mowrey said. But Mowrey said Graco will send replacement buckles to owners of rear-facing infant seats upon request.
Graco estimated that less than 1 percent of the seats involved in the recall have had buckles that were stuck or difficult to unlatch.
Mowrey said there have been no reported injuries due to the defect.