The March 20th an announcement by the Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx confirmed Graco Children's Products civil penalty of $10 million. According to Foxx's announcement:
the company failed to provide timely notification of a defect in more than 4 million car seats
The immediate fine is $3 million payable to the government, and the company will have to pay an additional $7 million in 5 years time, “unless they spend at least the same amount on new steps to improve child safety“.
So in reality, assuming Graco does in fact invest the $7 million in child safety improvements the fine will remain at the $3 million already due, and child safety emerges as the winner with a significant lump sum going towards safety R&D for child seats, restrainers and boosters.
The NHTSA's Investigation of Graco Car Seat Latches
According to a document published by the NHTSA the investigation was launched (or prompted by) Consumer Complaints. A total of 192 complaints around products manufactured between 2009 and 2012 were received, and were described as: Difficulty in unlatching the harness buckle, including complainants reportedly cutting the harness to remove their child.
Subsequently Graco issued an extensive recall of certain models of their car seats:
The NHTSA investigation began on October 15, 2012 – the recall initiated by Graco came just over 15 months later on February 7, 2014 – and which included 3,773,379 toddler and booster seats, with an additional 403,222 added to the total on March 7, 2014. These Defect Information Reports are referenced as “Safety Recalls 14C-001 and 14C-004” respectively.
An additional recall of almost 2 million car seats followed on June 27th, 2014 which were anufactured with the QT1 buckle (center) together with a customer satisfaction survey of consumers who owned the car seats with the Signature and QT3 Buckles. Graco subsequently offered consumers the opportunity of having these buckles replaced free of charge.
Within this massive recall of safety and toddler car seats, fortunately there were no injuries or fatalities reported as being attributable to the difficulty of removing the safety buckles, or harnesses – however some complaints were received that the harnesses actually had to be cut to remove the child seated within the seat at the time.
The following was retrieved from the Graco Buckle Recall site, where they continue to offer the free replacement:
There have been no reported injuries related to this issue or the safe use of the car seats. Graco will continue to offer a free replacement buckle to any consumer who has a toddler car seat or infant car seat not included in this recall, but would like to update their buckle to Graco’s current buckle design.
It will be interesting to see what the developments are or will be with regards to the additional $7 million, and how this will be implemented into child safety within this context, or will the US Government be the ultimate benficiary of these funds?