Mr. Brian J. Conaway
1771 Locust Street
Denver, CO 80220
Dear Mr. Conaway:
This responds to your letter asking for reconsideration of an interpretation regarding whether your Hip Hugger device is a child restraint system (CRS) under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems. In that previous interpretation (dated June 1, 2001), we determined that the Hip Hugger was not a CRS. We have examined the sample Hip Hugger that you sent, as well as the videotape regarding installation of the product, and also considered your arguments for classifying the device as a CRS. We regret to inform you that we still cannot classify the Hip Hugger as a child restraint system, for the reasons discussed below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). The following is our opinion based on the information set forth in your letter.
FMVSS No. 213, paragraph S4, defines a child restraint system as:
Any device, except Type I and Type II seat belts, designed for use in a motor vehicle or aircraft to restrain, seat, or position children who weigh 30 kilograms (kg) or less.
The Hip Hugger, as demonstrated by your videotape, is used to position the seat belt on children and small adults. Its function is to hold the seat belt in place so that the lap belt tightly holds the childs lap and the torso belt does not go across the child occupants neck. The Hip Hugger does not, in itself, restrain the occupant and it does not serve as a seat for the occupant.
In our previous letter to you, we determined that your device was not a child restraint system. We stated:
The Hip Hugger positions a seat belt on children and small adults; it does not restrain, seat, or position children. We do not consider the Hip Hugger to position children in a manner that a booster seat positions children to better use a vehicles belt system. The Hip Hugger simply locks the belt. The device alone cannot place or arrange the location of a child on a vehicle seat.
In your letter, you lay out specific arguments as to why the Hip Hugger should be considered a CRS, despite our previous analysis that determined that it was not. These arguments are addressed below.
Your first argument refers to our previous analysis that the Hip Hugger was not a child restraint system, in which we stated that [w]e do not consider the Hip Hugger to position children in a manner that a booster seat positions children to better use a vehicles belt system. You believe that according to this reasoning, no other device except a Booster seat could be classified as a Child Restraint System. You state that, although rear-facing restraints and harnesses are CRSs, they differ from booster seats: rear-facing child restraints do not use the vehicles belts system to position the child, and harnesses do not place or arrange the location of a child on the vehicle seat. Thus, you believe we were incorrect in determining that the Hip Hugger was not a CRS.
We regret if you found our response to be unclear. We will clarify it here.
It is helpful to remember that a child restraint system 1) restrains, 2) seats, or 3) positions children who weigh 30 kilograms or less. To us, it was clear that the Hip Hugger did not restrain or seat children, so our earlier letter did not discuss whether the Hip Hugger would be considered a CRS under those two aspects of the CRS definition. To us, the only issue was whether the Hip Hugger positioned children under the third aspect of the definition. Accordingly, we proceeded to interpret that aspect of the definition as applied to your product.
In stating that, We do not consider the Hip Hugger to position children in a manner that a booster seat positions children to better use a vehicles belt system, we did not mean that a device could be classified as a CRS only by positioning children as booster seats position children. Immediately preceding the sentence, we had stated that the Hip Hugger does not restrain, seat, or position children. Instead, the reference to booster seats was meant to be illustrative of what is meant by the term positioning of a child. That is to say, we did not consider the Hip Hugger to position children, such as, for example, the manner in which a booster seat adjusts the position of a child to better use a vehicles belt system.
With regard to your point about rear-facing child restraints and harnesses, these devices are child restraint systems because they 1) restrain, 2) seat, or 3) position children who weigh 30 kilograms or less. The devices consist of webbing and other materials that restrain a child occupant in a crash. The Hip Hugger, on the other hand, holds the seat belt in place, but does not itself restrain, seat or position the occupant.
With regard to your point that the Hip Hugger meets the definition of a belt positioning seat, a belt positioning seat is defined in paragraph S4 of FMVSS No. 213. By its definition, a belt positioning seat is a type of child restraint system. Because the Hip Hugger does not meet the definition of a CRS, it does not meet the definition of a belt positioning seat. As to the portability of the Hip Hugger, a point that you find relevant, that feature has no bearing on whether the device is a child restraint system.
In sum, we have reevaluated our previous interpretation to you as you requested, and have found it to be correct that the Hip Hugger is not a child restraint system.
Before closing, I would like to point out, as did our 2001 letter to you, that the Hip Hugger is a type of device that NHTSA once described as a seat belt positioner in a 1999 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM; 64 FR 44164). In the NPRM, NHTSA considered issuing a consumer information regulation for seat belt positioners, which were proposed to be defined as a device, other than a belt-positioning seat, that is manufactured to alter the positioning of Type I and/or Type II belt systems in motor vehicles. The proposed rulemaking was withdrawn in 2004 (69 FR 13503 at 13504).
We are returning your sample Hip Hugger and video under separate cover. If you have any additional questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke