Car Seat Recalls
The main reason for a car seat recall is that a malfunction or defect in the car seat has been found, especially if a parent or caregiver reports that their car seat is not working as required. In Canada, you may contact Transport Canada to get the latest information. Also in the United States the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversees the recall process and we’ll use it as an example to outline it here for you. The important take-home message is that regardless of where you live, consumers are an important part of the process so make sure you report any issues you have with your car seat(s) to the appropriate agency.
The NHTSA has the authority to set safety standards, issue them to manufacturers and the public and to recall any vehicle or its accessories that do not meet the set standards. So far, 42 million child safety seats have been recalled to correct the defects in safety (www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov).
A car seat can be recalled for several reasons, such as having defective safety belts, buckles or any other component of the car seat that creates a risk of injuring a child and not just in a collision but also when the car is not in operation.
There are several steps to a car seat recall that the NHTSA takes to test the car seat before and after a recall. It is essential to know these steps and learn the process that is invested in creating safety for your child.
First, the NHTSA reviews all complaints by different consumers about the car seat. This requires we all report any defects that we may have noticed about the car seat. You can report by calling the toll-free Vehicle Safety Hotline, through Safercar.gov or by filling out the “File a Complaint” section of the website. If you prefer, mail the correspondence directly to NHTSA. Your personal identity will be removed from the compiled report about the car seat that is used to determine whether a recall is necessary.
Next, the NHTSA conducts an evaluation and investigation of the reported car seat across primarily four steps where there is a screening process, a review of all submitted consumer complaints, follow up with some or all complaints and a final investigation. Finally, a formal investigation of the safety defects of the car seat is conducted. After the recall is completed a follow-up process evaluates the recall itself to examine its effectiveness.
A car seat recall is usually done by the manufacturer of the car seat, which is why the effectiveness of the recall is investigated. Some manufacturers have been reported to have refused to make a recall of their products because of fear of financial or other losses, while others have gone to court to appeal the decision by the NHTSA. Before you purchase an infant car seat or child safety booster seat you must know both the child safety seat requirements for your geographical region and do some research on the manufacturer you’re considering purchasing from. Ask your local retailer and do some online investigating into reviews and other customer opinions.
When the manufacturer agrees to conduct the recall, you will be contacted primarily through first class mail to the address that you filled out in the car seat registration/warranty card. Do not ignore the card when purchasing the car seat because it is absolutely important if the car seat is recalled for you to get up to date information. The manufacturer must explain to you the reasons as to why the car seat needs to be returned and if any corrections to the malfunctions are available.
The primary options for correcting a malfunction with the car seat are repair, replacement or refund. This will depend on the nature of the problem that has been reported by consumers and the report given by the NHTSA
As you can see the consumers play an important role in the on-going safety of our children traveling on the road – stay informed and participate in helping keep all our children safe.