Feds Start Investigating Timing of Huge Car Seat Recall

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A federal investigation was launched this week into the largest car seat recall in U.S. history, as government officials try to determine if manufacturer endangered the lives of children by delaying the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is questioning how one of the biggest names in children's products, Graco Children's Products, acted after learning there was a defect that affected more than 6 million car seats.

"There is no excuse for delaying a recall to address any safety-related defect," NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said. "If Graco delayed in protecting children and infants from this defect, we will hold them accountable."

"The safety of our products and the consumers that use them is paramount and underlies every decision we make," Graco said in a statement to ABC News. "Graco takes all consumer feedback related to our products seriously and we work diligently to make changes and modifications to improve the safety and usability of our products. We thoroughly analyzed all data related to the buckles and took the required actions to keep our consumers safe. We worked cooperatively with NHTSA throughout its investigation and will continue to do so moving forward."

What's Involved

The recall involves a defect that allows buckles on child and infant car seats to stick or get stuck in the latched position. That, NHTSA said, creates "an unreasonable risk to a child's life in the event of an emergency."

NHTSA noted the recall earlier this year came only after pressure from the agency, which, among other things, collects complaints from consumers about potential defects in cars, car seats and tires. Consumer complaints about the Graco seats including parents saying they had to cut the straps of the seat to free their children from the restraints.

Federal law requires manufacturers of such equipment as car seats to report a safety related defect within five days of learning of the problem.

"The Department is committed to ensuring that parents have peace of mind knowing that the car seat in which they are placing their child and their trust is safe and reliable," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Any delays by a manufacturer in meeting their obligations to report safety issues with the urgency they deserve, especially those that impact the well-being of our children, erodes that trust and is absolutely unacceptable."

If Graco is found to not have reported the defect in a timely manner, the company can face up to $35 million in fines.

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