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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

One of the largest manufacturers of car seats in the country announced that it would be recalling nearly two million child safety seat harness buckles earlier this week. Graco said that it would recall 1.9 million buckles that were made between July 2010 and May 2013.

The troubles were first raised after consumers filed complaints about having difficulty opening the buckles. After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration caught wind of the trouble it initiated an investigation, which led Graco to eventually announce the recall. Graco says that it will provide a free replacement buckle to those seats impacted.

The latest recall announcement is the second so far this year from Graco. In February, the company announced a recall of 4.2 million forward-facing child seats because of the same faulty buckle. The issue is that when children spill food or drinks on the harness it can become sticky over time and difficult to release. The NHTSA says that the company should have taken such problems into account when designing the harness. The recall sparked further interest in the matter by federal safety regulators who uncovered some truly alarming reports.

In some cases, parents mentioned having to cut the straps of the child safety seats in order to free their children. The NHTSA then began a series of tests to calculate how long a malfunctioning buckle could delay freeing an infant, especially during an emergency such as a car accident.

Even more alarming was a case from 2011, which Graco settled out of court involving the death of a young child trapped in a car seat. In that case, the mother was unable to free the child from the seat after a car accident and the child eventually died of burns. Graco denies that the harness was at fault in the case.

Beginning in May, the New York Times first revealed that the NHTSA wanted Graco to recall potentially millions more seats. The company feared that problems with the safety harnesses could potentially lead to children being stuck in vehicles in the event of an accident or other crisis. Graco pushed back at first, claiming that rear-facing seats did not need to be recalled because it did not matter whether the buckles were slow to respond. Graco officials say that even if the harnesses did stick, the parent could detach the seat from its base and remove the whole thing from the vehicle.

Graco has said that no injuries were associated with the recall, but says that consumers are still encouraged to order replacement kits right away and install the new buckles as soon as they arrive.

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