Keeping kids safe in recalled car seats


Reporter- Briana Conner
Photographer- Justin Jones

MURRAY, Ky.-—Graco has issued the fourth biggest recall for car seats ever. The company says 3.7 million of their products have harness buckles that are sometimes difficult to undo.

This recall affects rear-facing toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats sold from 2009 to July 2013. Graco is offering to replace the defective buckles free of charge, but many parents who have them want to know what to do with their children in the meantime.

Mother-of-two Chelsea Van Rooy said there's something wrong with her four-year-old's Graco car seat. "A lot of times when you push that, this one will come out but this one stays in." It's something she's been trying to have fixed for two days. She said, "I called Graco customer service, but I was on hold for close to an hour. Then, I emailed them, as well, but I haven't heard back."

When I called Wednesday, I got a recording that said their call volume was abnormally high. They encouraged me to call back at another time. "It kind of worries you," said Van Rooy. Sometimes her buckle works and sometimes it doesn't. Those kids of odds aren't good enough for the federal government or local fire fighters.

"The safety of the children means a lot to the fire department," said Battalion Chief Ronnie Rathman. Parents can buy an inexpensive tool to get their children out of their car seats in a pinch called a seat belt cutter according to Rathman. "It can be very handy. It's safe to use. It does have a razor blade to cut the strap, but it's protected so it wouldn't injure the child," he said.

The seat belt cutter is one solution for a problem Van Rooy says she ultimately wants Graco to fix. She said, "Hopefully we can get that done pretty soon."

Graco's PR Manager Ashley Mowrey did not have a concrete answer for how long it should take to get in touch with a customer service representative or receive the replacement parts. She did say, however, parents who have their car seats registered with will automatically get their replacement harnesses. They don't have to worry about calling.

The National Transportation and Safety Board is criticizing Graco saying the recall left out seven infant car seat models with the same buckles. The company us currently contesting that claim.