Mr. David E. Campbell
David Campbell & Associates, Inc.
PO Box 402
Westfield Center, OH 44251-0402
Dear Mr. Campbell:
This responds to your e-mail to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance and your follow-up phone conversation with Mr. Chris Calamita of my staff. You inquired as to whether your client may make certain modifications to the warning label text required under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child restraint systems. As explained below, one but not all of the modifications you suggest is permitted.
For a belt-positioning booster seat such as that manufactured by your client, S5.5.2(g) of FMVSS No. 213 requires the statement:
- Use only the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt system when restraining the child in this booster seat
to be followed directly by the statement:
- Secure this child restraint with a vehicle belt.
You expressed concern that listing the statements as required on a belt-positioning booster seat could be confusing. You then proposed a single bullet point to replace the two listed above, which would read as follows:
Secure child in this child restraint with a vehicle lap and shoulder belt as specified in the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.
You stated that you believe that the proposed statement avoids any confusion about how a child should be secured.
We agree that a belt-positioning booster seat is weighted down by the child occupant and that the booster is not secured directly to the vehicle with the vehicle’s belt system. The warning statement, “Secure this child restraint with a vehicle belt” is thus not appropriate for a belt-positioning booster. As such, manufacturers of belt-positioning booster do not need to include the phrase in the labeling. Further, we intend to address this issue in future rulemaking.
However, we do not agree that your replacement language would be an acceptable alternative. S5.5 of Standard 213 requires child restraints to be permanently labeled with certain information, including specific statements provided in quotations in the standard. The agency’s longstanding position is that the wording on child restraint labels must be as specified in S5.5, with very limited exceptions. We have permitted certain minor variations that clarified text and did not make any substantive change to the meaning of the warning specified for the label. (See e.g., Letter to Ford Motor Company, changing “instructions” to the “instruction” to clarify that a restraint had only a single instruction for a particular feature. December 18, 1980; copy enclosed.) However, we generally have taken a strict view that the wording required by FMVSS No. 213 may not be altered.
The rewording you have suggested is not a minor clarification, and in fact, may potentially lead to confusion. Your label instructs the consumer to refer to “the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions” to determine how a child should be properly secured in the child restraint. However, vehicle manufacturers are not required under the Federal standards to provide information on the proper installation of a child in a child restraint. It is the child restraint manufacturer that is required to provide instructions on how to properly restrain a child in its restraint systems. For the reasons stated above, the labeling alternative you suggest is not acceptable.
If you have any further questions, please call Mr. Calamita of my staff at (202) 366-0536.