Dean Rose, Founding Partner
Transportation Safety Products, Ltd.
6797 N. High Street, Suite 214
Worthington, OH 43085
Dear Mr. Rose:
This responds to your letter asking about Federal requirements that apply to a voice alarm system that, according to the advertising pamphlet you enclosed, actually talks to and alerts the children with three distinct, clear and loud voice messages. There is also a panic button that verbally warns pedestrians and/or children that a car is moving around the school bus stop arm by announcing: Danger! Get back! A car is coming!
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 to issue and enforce Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Instead, our statute establishes a self-certification process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. The agency periodically tests vehicles and equipment items for compliance with the standards, and also investigates reports of safety-related defects.
There is no FMVSS that applies to a child safety alarm system such as you have described. However, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 30118-30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety-related defects. I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those and other manufacturer responsibilities. In the event the manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for, among other things, notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge. (Note that this responsibility is borne by the vehicle manufacturer in cases in which your device is installed on a new vehicle by or with the express authorization of that vehicle manufacturer.)
In addition, Section 30122 of our statute (49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.) prohibits a motor vehicle manufacturer, dealer, distributor, or repair business from making modifications that
make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard Any person in the aforementioned categories installing your device on a new or used school bus or transit bus must take care with the safety systems required of the vehicles. For example, FMVSS No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release, establishes requirements for school bus emergency exit release. Section S126.96.36.199 requires, among other things, an audible warning at the school bus drivers seating position and in the vicinity of the emergency exit door if the release mechanism is not in the position that causes the emergency exit door to be closed and the vehicles ignition is on. In addition, FMVSS No. 131, School bus pedestrian safety devices, has a requirement in section 5.5 for a warning audible to the driver when an optional device that prevents the automatic extension of a stop signal arm is activated. Your device must not negatively affect the operation of either of these required warning systems.
The make inoperative provision does not apply to a vehicle owner making changes to his or her own vehicle. However, NHTSA urges owners not to degrade the safety of their vehicles.
We also note that this child safety alarm system appears to shift some of the burden of responsibility to child pedestrians. The responsibility for looking out for children should, first and foremost, be on the adults (i.e., the school bus driver and the drivers of vehicles around the school bus). This product should not be viewed as a substitute for vigilance on the part of drivers to look out for children. In addition, the talking bus should not distract children, especially when they are crossing the street. We are also concerned that the bus may attract the curious child, encouraging approaching the bus and seeking out the source of the voice.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) may have requirements that affect the placement of your child safety alarm system on transit buses. I would suggest you contact them directly for a legal opinion about the applicability of FTA requirements to your product.
Note also that States have the authority to regulate the operation and use of vehicles. If you wish to know whether State law permits the installation of your child safety alarm system in school buses or other motor vehicles, you should contact State officials with your question.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Ms. Dorothy Nakama at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke