Maclaren stroller “recall”: new hysteria over an old hazard to little fingertips

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This morning, on our morning ride to the nursery with G, F and I were discussing the US “recall” of Maclaren baby buggies.   The story we read this morning was headed “Pushchair amputation risk recall.” Well, this had me picturing kids somehow getting an arm or a leg hooked around and…I don’t know…I was a bit stumped from there.  Predictably, the media (in this case, the BBC news website) was taking every opportunity to make the danger sound spectacular.  Sensationalist, I believe, is the word generally used.  What it turns out to be is that some kids have hurt their fingers, and some have had ends of fingers nipped off, by getting them caught in a hinge as the stroller was being unfolded.  Maclaren is offering free kits, in the US only, to cover the offending hinge.  Aside: it’s interesting that the word “recall” no longer seems to imply that products are actually recalled to a dealership for repair or replacement.

In the story we initially read was the line:

“The company stressed that models sold in the UK were not affected.”

The obvious question was then: Are the UK models any different from the ones sold in the US, or is it just that the recall only “affects” purchases made in the US?  After all, what possible reason could there be for Maclaren strollers to be different in the US from in the UK?  It appears that the answer is that the hinges are the same in both cases.  For some reason, Maclaren is finding it wise to issue free hinge covers in one market while hoping to avoid the expense in others. (Apparently Maclaren will send the kits to Canadian requestors, even though technically they aren’t extending their recall to Canada.)

Back to the giddy sensationalism of the BBC stories (I’m singling the BBC out because that’s who I read.  They are susceptible to a bit of hyperbole but it’s not the most susceptible outlet by far): The second story I read (“Row over pushchair safety risks”) begins:

“A consumer group has called for UK parents to receive the same protection as those in the US, amid fears of amputation risks from a pushchair.”

Amputation risks!  Must read on!

They carry on:

“Owners of one million Maclaren pushchairs in the US have been told to stop using them after a dozen children had their fingers amputated in a hinge.”

Kids losing fingers!  Agh!

They get through one more instance of the word “amputation” before arriving at the quote from a CPSC spokesperson specifying that the amputations that were reported were of fingertips, not whole fingers.

In yet another story, “Why no UK baby buggy recall?” reporter Nigel Pankhurst at least begins with specific fingertip references, but later, in relating a specific anecdote where a child had

“had her fingertip cut off when she jumped into a Maclaren Volo as it was being unfolded…”

he can’t resist:

“The finger was re-attached but she has been left with a scar.”

Again the fingertip is exaggerated to a whole finger.  Sigh.

So should the hinge cover kit be offered to everyone in all markets?  I think Maclaren should probably bite the bullet and do it.  And it is time to improve their hinge design.  It will save some pain and scarred little fingers, and Maclaren’s reputation is on the line.  The world is small and moms are networked!  This same fact leads me to think the risk is not actually very great: the “recall” affects models manufactured since 1999.  If serious injuries were common, Maclaren would have a bad reputation on  message boards frequented by mothers of young children, where the pros and cons of any model you can name have been discussed.  I’ve read plenty of threads on Maclaren strollers and never heard a peep on this.  On the other hand, if I were to read discussions about specific cars, the incidence of kids slamming their fingers in the doors would probably not come up.  It may just be that the days of parents regarding pinched fingers as an unavoidable hazard of having a folding buggy have come to an end.