Mr. Lance Tunick

Vehicle Services Consulting, Inc.

PO Box 23078

Santa Fe, NM 87502-3078

Dear Mr. Tunick:

This responds to your letter requesting an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, with regard to the procedure for positioning the 5th percentile adult female dummy in the drivers seating position for the rigid barrier crash test. You ask five questions regarding the standards provisions for positioning of the test dummys foot.

Your questions are phrased as though you were asking whether we would allow manufacturers to conduct Standard No. 208s compliance tests in a certain manner. While manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles comply with the standard, they are not required to specifically perform the tests set forth in the FMVSSs. Manufacturers may base their certification upon procedures other than those specified in the FMVSSs, such as computer simulation, engineering studies, and mathematical calculations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, will perform its own compliance testing in accordance with the procedures in the FMVSSs. In the event of a noncompliance, the reasonableness of the manufacturers basis for its certification will have a bearing on the enforcement action that the agency will pursue.

Thus, in answering your questions, when you ask what a manufacturer is permitted to do in certain circumstances, we understood you to ask what actions NHTSA would take if we were testing your product under similar circumstances.

1) Your first question concerns S16. of FMVSS No. 208, which specifies the procedure for positioning the 5th percentile female dummys thighs, legs, and feet so that the torso can be properly positioned for the test. You ask if, during the S16. set up, the dummys left foot contacts the wheel-well while moving the seat forward, NHTSA would rotate the dummys left leg inward to avoid contact with the wheel-well. As explained below, our answer is no. However, we would not cease to move the seat forward because of the foot contact, as you suggest.

The relevant portion of S16. reads,

Proceed with moving the seat forward until either the leg contacts the vehicle interior or the seat reaches the full forward position. (The right foot may contact and depress the accelerator and/or change the angle of the foot with respect to the leg during seat movement.) If necessary to avoid contact with the vehicles brake or clutch pedal, rotate the test dummys left foot about the leg. If there is still interference, rotate the left thigh outboard about the hip the minimum distance necessary to avoid pedal interference. If a dummy leg contacts the vehicle interior before the full forward position is attained, position the seat at the next detent where there is no contact.

In no portion of S16. does the standard state that the leg is rotated inward. According to S16., only the foot and thigh can be rotated and only for the purpose of avoiding pedal interference. Thus, we would not move the leg inward to avoid contact with the wheel-well.

However, in the background portion of your letter, you indicate that you are stopping the forward movement of the dummy because, as you state, the driver dummys LEFT foot contacts the wheel-well and blocks the movement of the seat forward. We note that S16. states that one should [p]roceed with moving the seat forward until either the leg contacts the vehicle interior or the seat reaches the full forward position. [Emphasis added][1] The term leg is defined in S16.3.1.8 as the lower part of the entire leg, including the knee, as distinguished from the definition of foot given in S16.3.1.9, which is the foot, including the ankle. As long as only the foot, and not the leg, is in contact with the wheel-well, NHTSA would continue to move the seat forward until the seat reaches the full forward position. We are aware that, in certain situations such as where the foot strikes the wheel-well at an angle, continued forward motion may result in movement of the foot, leg, and/or hip, until the leg contacts the vehicle interior or the seat is in the full forward position. This resulting movement would be acceptable, but the leg should not be deliberately rotated inboard.

We also note that our method is in accordance with the intent of the May 12, 2000 final rule on dummy positioning, which is to move the 5th percentile female dummy to the full frontal position. In that rulemaking, we stated that:


[T]his rule transforms unbelted rigid barrier testing under Standard No. 208 through the adoption of new and more stringent injury criteria, a new small adult female dummy seated far forward of where the existing mid-sized adult male dummy is placed in compliance testing.[2]


Therefore, we would follow the procedure outlined above, as it both conforms to the language of S16. and achieves the desired result, which is to position the dummy in the forward position. We would reposition the dummys feet in the proper position for the test later in the positioning process, using the procedures in paragraph S16.3.2.2, Driver foot positioning.

2) Your second question asks if the provisions for foot positioning set forth in S16. should be permitted under S16. in order to avoid a situation in which the dummy is so far rearward that it does not have its hands or feet on the controls. Our answer is two-fold. First, recall that as explained in our answer to question 1, we would continue to move the dummy forward until it reached the full forward position. In that position, the hands and feet would reach the vehicle controls. Therefore, we do not believe that there would be a situation where the dummy is so far rearward that its hands or feet do not reach the controls. Second, the provisions of S16. do not apply to S16. The movements described in S16. pertain to positioning the test dummy under S16., S16., and S16. of the standard, not to dummy positioning under S16. S16. describes a different part of the positioning process and is written to be performed before the procedures in paragraph S16.3.2.2, Driver foot positioning.

3) In your third question, you ask for confirmation that S16. sets the proper criteria for positioning of the dummys foot, as opposed to Item 34.2 of the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance Laboratory Test Procedure for FMVSS 208, Appendix G (TP208-13). The answer is yes.

We begin by noting that the procedures you refer to are currently listed as Item 31.2 of TP208-13. The Test Procedures are guidance for NHTSA contractors to perform compliance testing under the Federal standards. You are correct that there is a discrepancy between S16., which reads, rotate the left leg about the hip in either an outboard or inboard direction, [emphasis added] and TP208-13, Appendix G, Item 31.2, which reads, in relevant part, rotate the leg outboard about the hip. The procedure set forth in the FMVSS supersedes any discrepancy in TP208-13.

4) Your fourth question asks for confirmation of whether it would be permissible to have the dummys left foot rest on the foot rest if, after performing the procedures described in S16., the dummys foot still rests on the foot rest. The fifth sentence of S16. reads If it is not possible to avoid all prohibited foot contact, give priority to avoiding brake or clutch pedal contact. This sentence indicates that if, after the procedures in S16. are performed, there is contact between the left foot and the foot rest, then that contact is acceptable.

5) Finally, your fifth question asks if the agency could define the terms floor pan, foot rest, and toe-board. While we have not defined these terms, they are commonly used terms to describe portions of the area where the drivers feet are set while operating the vehicle. If you have a question as to whether some component of a specific design would be identified as any of these parts, NHTSA would be pleased to provide further clarification.

I hope this information answers your questions satisfactorily. If you have any further questions, please contact Mr. Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel



[1] We also note that you claim there is a portion of paragraph S16. that permits movement of the dummys leg in an OUTBOARD direction. We were unable to find any such language. Perhaps you are referencing the sentence that says rotate the left thigh outboard about the hip, [emphasis added]. This sentence is inapplicable as it is prefaced with the statement [i]f necessary to avoid contact with the vehicles brake or clutch pedal, [emphasis added]. Here, the left foot comes in contact with the wheel-well only.

[2] 55 FR 30684.