I.  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    This document makes a number of revisions to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, "Child Restraint Systems" (49 CFR §571.213). The revisions incorporate four elements into the standard: (a) an updated bench seat used to dynamically test add-on child restraint systems; (b) a sled pulse that provides a wider test corridor; (c) improved child test dummies; and (d) expanded applicability to child restraint systems recommended for use by children weighing up to 65 pounds. This action strengthens the technical underpinnings of the standard and ensures that a firmer foundation is laid for possible technical improvements in the future. Child restraints will be tested using the most advanced test dummies available today and tested to conditions representing current model vehicles. This final rule does not adopt the scaled injury criteria developed for the occupant protection standard (FMVSS No. 208), except that the time interval used to calculate the head injury criterion is amended from an unlimited time interval to 36 milliseconds.

    This final rule fulfills the mandate in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (the TREAD Act) (November 1, 2000, Pub. L. 106-414, 114 Stat. 1800) to initiate a rulemaking for the purpose of improving the safety of child restraints. [1]

    Section 14(a) of the TREAD Act mandated that the agency "initiate a rulemaking for the purpose of improving the safety of child restraints, including minimizing head injuries from side impact collisions."  Section 14(b) identified specific elements that the agency must consider in its rulemaking. The Act gave the agency substantial discretion over the decision whether to issue a final rule on the specific elements. Section 14(c) specified that if the agency does not incorporate any element described in §14(b) in a final rule, the agency shall explain in a report to Congress the reasons for not incorporating the element in a final rule.

    In response to Section 14, the agency examined possible ways of revising and updating its child restraint standard. Today’s final rule is substantially based on a combination of pre- and post-TREAD Act agency activities, including research studies of child restraints and dummies by NHTSA following issuance of the NPRM. This final rule was also developed based on extensive information provided by comments to the NPRM. Several factors relating to child restraint performance and use in this country guided the agency in its decision-making on this rulemaking, in addition to the statutory mandates governing the agency’s rulemaking activities.   These factors are outlined in Section IV of this preamble.

    The agency also issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) published concurrently with the NPRM, in which comments were sought on the agency’s work on developing a possible side impact protection standard for child restraint systems.   This advanced notice is discussed in Section V of today’s preamble. The ANPRM announced that the agency had conducted extensive testing and analysis over the year proceeding the ANPRM to develop a possible side impact protection standard for children in child restraints but acknowledged that there are many unknowns. The agency sought comment on the suitability of the test procedures it was considering, on appropriate injury criteria for children in side impacts, on cost beneficial countermeasures, and on other issues. Additionally, after the ANPRM was published the agency evaluated possible mitigation concepts, such as adding padding material to the child restraint system. After reviewing the comments and the results of its post-ANPRM study, the agency has decided that the level and amount of effort needed to further develop and validate a side impact component for incorporation into FMVSS No. 213 far exceeds what could be accomplished within the time constraints of the TREAD Act.  While an NPRM is not feasible at this time, NHTSA’s research into improved side impact protection requirements for child restraints will continue as an ongoing agency program.

    The updates to the seat assembly are based on studies that NHTSA contracted to have done in response to the TREAD Act. This final rule makes the following changes: the seat bottom cushion angle is increased from 8 degrees off horizontal to 15 degrees; the seat back cushion angle is increased from 15 degrees off the vertical to 20 ± 1 degrees; the spacing between the anchors of the lap belt is increased from 222 millimeters (mm) to 400 mm in the center seating position and from 356 mm to 472 mm in the outboard seating positions; and the seat back of the seat assembly is changed, from a flexible seat back to one that is fixed, to represent a typical rear seat in a passenger car.

    The changes to the sled pulse are based on studies conducted in response to the TREAD Act. The test corridor is widened to make it easier for more test facilities to reproduce. The wider corridor extends the pulse from 80 milliseconds (ms) to approximately 90 ms in duration. The expanded corridor does not reduce the stringency of the test, and makes it easier to conduct compliance tests at speeds closer to 30 mph.

    This document enhances the use of test dummies in the evaluation of child restraints under Standard No. 213. NHTSA replaces most of the existing dummies with the new 12-month-old Child Restraint Air Bag Interaction (CRABI) dummy, and the state-of-the art Hybrid III 3- and 6-year-old dummies. NHTSA also incorporates a weighted 6-year-old dummy (i.e., a Hybrid III 6-year-old dummy to which weights have been added) to test the structural integrity of child restraints recommended for use by children weighing 50 to 65 lb. Incorporation of the weighted, 62 lb, dummy is viewed as an interim measure until such time as the Hybrid III 10-year-old dummy becomes available. Because the weighted dummy will be available for use in dynamic testing of child restraints for older children, this final rule extends the application of FMVSS No. 213 to child restraint systems for children who weigh 65 lb or less.

    The agency has decided against adopting the scaled injury criteria developed in the context of the advanced air bag rulemaking of FMVSS No. 208. The agency was unable to confirm the existence of a safety problem that the scaled injury limits of FMVSS No. 208 would remedy. Relatedly, not enough is known about what modifications to child restraints could be made for the restraints to meet the proposed injury limits. In balancing the effects of meeting the scaled injury criteria against the possible impacts on the price of restraints, the agency determined that the scaled injury limits should not be added to FMVSS No. 213 at this time.

    NHTSA has examined the benefits and costs of these amendments, wishing to adopt only those amendments that contribute to improved safety, and mindful of the principles for regulatory decisionmaking set forth in Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. Its efforts to do so, however, have been limited by several factors. One is the limited time allowed by the schedule specified in the TREAD Act for initiating and completing this rulemaking. That has limited the amount and variety of information that the agency could obtain and testing that the agency could conduct to examine the efficacy of possible countermeasures under consideration and the effects of the various proposed amendments on child restraint performance. The other is the lack of specific accident data on children in motor vehicle crashes generally. For example, there is little available data on neck injury in children involved in motor vehicle crashes. Together, these limitations have made it difficult to assess and compare the benefits and costs of this rulemaking.

    The agency does not believe that updating the seat assembly and revising the crash pulse would affect dummy performance to an extent that benefits would accrue from such changes. The amendment of FMVSS No. 213 incorporating use of the new dummies in compliance tests, including testing with a weighted 6-year-old dummy, would result in a one-time cost of $1.68 million for manufacturers to purchase the new test dummies and $1.39 to $3.44 million to certify existing child restraints to the new dummies and test requirements. The annual long-term costs are estimated to be $31,200 to test new models of booster seats (including built-in restraints) with a weighted 6-year-old dummy. We believe that use of the new dummies, in itself, would not necessitate redesign of child restraints.


    II.  BACKGROUND

    Of the 31,910 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2001, 1,003 were children ages 0 through 10 years old. Four hundred ninety-seven (497) of these were less than 5 years old. The failure to use occupant restraints is a significant factor in most fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes for both adults and children. Of the 31,910 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2001, over half (55 percent) were unrestrained. Forty-six (46) percent of the 1,003 child occupant fatalities, ages 0 through 10 years old, were unrestrained. For child occupants less than 5 years old, 45 percent of the 497 fatalities were unrestrained. [2]   In 2001, 202 child occupants under 5 years of age were killed while restrained in child restraints, and another 32,000 were injured.

    NHTSA developed three strategies for reducing the number of children killed and injured in motor vehicle crashes in this country. (See Planning Document, 65 FR 70687; November 27, 2000; Docket NHTSA 7938.)   The first of these was a strategy designed to increase restraint use among all children and to ensure that the appropriate restraint systems are used correctly. The agency estimated that if all children ages 0-4 years old were restrained in child restraint systems, 173 lives could have been saved in 1998. Additional studies have shown that as many as 68 additional deaths to children ages 0-6 years old could be prevented each year by eliminating misuse of child restraints. The agency conducts national campaigns to educate the public about the importance of buckling children into child restraint systems.

    The second strategy was to improve existing requirements for the performance and testing of child restraint systems. Since NHTSA first began regulating child safety seats in 1971, the agency has made numerous improvements to the original Federal safety standard. On a frequent basis, the agency has issued planning documents or has held public meetings on child passenger safety issues at the attention of the agency and the agency’s long view of possible regulatory actions that might be taken in response. The public is invited to comment on the agency’s plans. The November 2000 Planning Document announced that the agency planned to undertake rulemaking to update the bench seat and belt geometry used in Standard No. 213’s compliance test, revise the crash pulse used in the test, incorporate state-of-the art infant, 3-year-old and 6-year-old crash test dummies and child-specific injury criteria, and continue efforts working with the Society of Automotive Engineers in developing a 10-year-old child test dummy. The plan also stated that the agency would conduct research into possible side impact test requirements for child restraints and developing a test dummy appropriate for use in side impact tests. In addition, the plan announced that NHTSA would begin testing child restraints in full frontal and side impact vehicle crash tests under the agency’s New Car Assessment Program.

     The third strategy called for improved mechanisms for getting safety information to consumers, to increase the likelihood that child restraints would be purchased and correctly used. The agency sought to improve the information it provided to consumers, both on the performance and proper use of child restraint systems, as well as on defect investigations and safety recalls.

    In November 2000, the TREAD Act was enacted. Section 14 of the TREAD Act directed NHTSA to initiate a rulemaking for the purpose of improving the safety of child restraints and included specific elements, listed below, that the agency had to consider as part of the rulemaking. Most of the elements for consideration had been included in NHTSA’s Planning Document as part of the strategy for improving the safety of child restraints. Thus, Section 14 reaffirmed the importance of the agency’s planned programs for amending Standard No. 213. Nonetheless, the TREAD Act had very tight deadlines for initiating and completing the rulemaking which also defined for the agency the actions it could take and complete within those deadlines.


    III.  THE TREAD ACT

    Section 14 of the TREAD Act directed NHTSA to initiate a rulemaking for the purpose of improving the safety of child restraints by November 1, 2001, and to complete it by issuing a final rule or taking other action by November 1, 2002. The relevant provisions in Section 14 are as follows:

      (a) In General. Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall initiate a rulemaking for the purpose of improving the safety of child restraints, including minimizing head injuries from side impact collisions.

      (b) Elements for Consideration. In the rulemaking required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall consider--

        (1) whether to require more comprehensive tests for child  restraints than the current Federal motor vehicle safety standards requires, including the use of dynamic tests that--

          (A) replicate an array of crash conditions, such as side- impact crashes and rear-impact crashes; and

          (B) reflect the designs of passenger motor vehicles as of the date of enactment of this Act;

        (2) whether to require the use of anthropomorphic test devices that--

          (A) represent a greater range of sizes of children including the need to require the use of an anthropomorphic test device that is representative of a ten-year-old child;  and

          (B) are Hybrid III anthropomorphic test devices;

        (3) whether to require improved protection from head injuries in side-impact and rear-impact crashes;

        (4) how to provide consumer information on the physical  compatibility of child restraints and vehicle seats on a model-by-model basis;

        (5) whether to prescribe clearer and simpler labels and instructions required to be placed on child restraints;

        (6) whether to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213 (49 C.F.R. 571.213) to cover restraints for children weighing up to 80 pounds;

        (7) whether to establish booster seat performance and  structural integrity requirements to be dynamically tested in 3-point lap and shoulder belts;

        (8) whether to apply scaled injury criteria performance levels, including neck injury, developed for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208 to child restraints and booster seats covered by in [sic] Federal Motor Vehicle Safety  Standard No. 213; and

        (9) whether to include [a] child restraint in each vehicle crash tested under the New Car Assessment Program.

      (c) Report to Congress. If the Secretary does not incorporate any element described in subsection (b) in the final rule, the Secretary shall explain, in a report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce submitted within 30 days after issuing the final rule, specifically why the Secretary did not incorporate any such element in the final rule.

      (d) Completion. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall complete the rulemaking required by subsection (a) not later than 24 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.


    IV.  RESPONSIBLE REGULATION

    The agency developed its proposed and final rules responding to the TREAD Act while bearing in mind and in some cases, balancing, several compelling principles and considerations that generally come to the forefront in rulemaking in this area. These are discussed below.

    (a)  When used, child restraints are highly effective in reducing the likelihood of death and or serious injury in motor vehicle crashes. NHTSA estimates ("Revised Estimates of Child Restraint Effectiveness," Hertz, 1996) that for children less than one-year-old, a child restraint can reduce the risk of fatality by 71 percent when used in a passenger car and by 58 percent when used in a pickup truck, van, or sport utility vehicle (light truck). Child restraint effectiveness for children between the ages 1 to 4 years old is 54 percent in passenger cars and 59 percent in light trucks. The failure to use occupant restraints is a significant factor in most fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes. For child occupants less than 5 years old, 45 percent of the 497 fatalities in 2001 were unrestrained.

    Over the past decade, the agency has sought to increase use of vehicle seat belt and child restraint systems. NHTSA conducts national campaigns to educate the public about the importance of buckling children into child restraint systems, supports efforts by state and local organizations that wish to establish child safety seat fitting stations (locations within a community where parents and caregivers can learn how to install and properly use child restraints), and works with partners to train educators that can teach the public about using child restraints. If more child restraints were used, children’s lives would certainly be saved in significant numbers.

    If child restraints were made more effective, some lives could also possibly be saved. However, in making regulatory decisions on possible enhancements, the agency must bear in mind the consumer acceptance of cost increases to an already highly-effective item of safety equipment. Any enhancement that would significantly raise the price of the restraints could potentially have an adverse effect on the sales of this voluntarily-purchased equipment. The net effect on safety could be negative if the effect of sales losses exceeds the benefit of the improved performance of the restraints that are purchased. Thus, to maximize the total safety benefits of its efforts to extend and upgrade its restraint requirements, the agency must balance those improvements against impacts on the price of restraints. The agency must also consider the effects of improved performance on the ease of using child restraints. If the use of child restraints becomes overly complex, the twin problems of misuse and nonuse of child restraints could be exacerbated.

    (b)  Estimating the net effect on safety of this rulemaking, consistent with the principles for regulatory decisionmaking set forth in Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, was limited by several factors. One was the lack of specific accident data on children in motor vehicle crashes generally. Second, the limited time allowed by the schedule specified in the TREAD Act for initiating and completing this rulemaking limited the amount and variety of information that the agency could obtain and testing that the agency could conduct to examine the efficacy of possible countermeasures and the effects of various proposed amendments on child restraint performance. Together, these limitations made it difficult to assess and compare the benefits and costs of this rulemaking.

    (c)  The rulemaking schedule imposed by the TREAD Act also limited the rulemaking to elements that could be completed within the statutory schedule. The development of an anthropomorphic test device representing a 10-year-old child could not be completed within the timeframe of the TREAD Act and so was not part of the rulemaking, notwithstanding its inclusion as an element for consideration in NHTSA’s Planning Document and in Section 14 of the TREAD Act. Development of a seat cushion with different stiffness characteristics for the test seat assembly could not be completed and analyzed in time to be included in this rulemaking. Development of a side impact test procedure, injury criteria, and cost-effective countermeasures also could not be completed within the TREAD Act rulemaking schedule. Work is continuing in some of these areas. While ideally the agency would have wanted to address all related aspects of the standard, what could be accomplished in the near term was addressed and what could not but should will be pursued in the future.



    [1] It also follows up on the agency’s announcement in its November 2000 Draft Child Restraint Systems Safety Plan (Docket NHTSA-7938) that the agency will be undertaking rulemaking on these and other elements of Standard No. 213 (65 FR 70687; November 27, 2000).

    [2] Of the 2,787,000 passenger vehicle occupants injured in crashes in 2001, only 12 percent (324,000) were reported as unrestrained. The rates are about the same for child occupants. For children ages 0 – 10 years old, an estimated 147,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2001, and 12 percent (18,000) of these children were unrestrained. Of the 59,000 child occupants less than 5 years of age who were injured, 11 percent (6,000) were unrestrained.