Mr. Brian J. Conaway
1771 Locust Street,
Denver, CO 80220
Dear Mr. Conaway:
This responds to your letter asking us to reconsider our determination that the Hip Hugger is not a child restraint system (CRS) under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) previously wrote to you about the Hip Hugger on June 1, 2001, and October 26, 2006. In todays letter, we answer your five questions and confirm our previous opinions that the Hip Hugger is not a CRS.
1. Your first question asks how exactly does a Harness itself 1) restrain, 2) seat, or 3) position a child who weighs 30 kg or less? You state that a harness alone cannot place or arrange the location of the child on the vehicle seat. Unlike the Hip Hugger, a harness restrains a child when used as directed, whereas the Hip Hugger merely positions the seat belt on the child. The difference is that a harness itself is the physical item that restrains the child in the event of a crash, whereas the Hip Hugger is not. The Hip Hugger appears to be a belt-positioning device.
2. Your second question asks since a Belt Positioning System [sic] (BPS) does not position a child on the vehicle seat, how can it be classified as a BPS? A belt-positioning seat is defined in FMVSS No. 213 (S4) as follows:
Belt-positioning seat means a child restraint system that positions a child on a vehicle seat to improve the fit of a vehicle Type II belt system on the child and lacks any component, such as a belt system or structural element, designed to restrain forward movement of the childs torso in a forward impact.
You seem to believe that, to meet the definition of a belt-positioning seat, the device must position a child to sit directly on the vehicle seat. This is not correct. Belt-positioning seats typically provide a seating platform that raises the child to fit the vehicles belt system, and that enables the child to bend his or her knees in a comfortable seating position.
3. Your third question asks, since the Hip Hugger does position a child on a vehicle seat to improve the fit of the Type II belt system on the child and lacks any component, such as a belt system or structural element designed to restrain forward movement of the childs torso on a standard impact, why exactly is it not a BPS? The answer is that a belt-positioning seat positions the child such as by raising him or her to better position the seat belts on the childs torso. The Hip Hugger positions the seat belt by locking it in place at the childs hip, rather than positioning the child relative to the restraint system. The Hip Hugger does not restrain, seat, or position children and thus is not a child restraint system, and is not a belt-positioning seat. The Hip Hugger is more accurately described as a seat belt positioner.
4. Your fourth question asks how your device differs from the Britax Laptop, which you state does not restrain, seat, or position children who weigh 30 kilograms or less? You ask that we examine a printout of a page from a website describing the Laptop. According to the website, the Britax Laptop comes STRAIGHT up the child's chest and covers the breastbone of the child more snugly. Due to the snug LAPTOP fit on the chest of the child, the laptop will keep the upper body from wrapping forward. The device also has sides which would appear to prevent the child from moving side to side.
The Laptop restrains the child occupant with the structural element in front of the childs chest preventing forward movement. The sides of the Laptop position a child to sit upright within the confines of the device. In contrast, your Hip Hugger only positions the vehicles seat belts to fit the child.
5. Your fifth question asks, how can NHTSA continue to not recognize the superior crash test performance of the Hip Hugger when compared to other recognized CRSs and not be in conflict with the stated purpose of FMVSS No. 213?
The Hip Hugger does not meet the definition of a child restraint system, so it is not regulated by FMVSS No. 213. You are not prohibited by FMVSS No. 213 from selling the device. You only must not certify it as a child restraint system complying with FMVSS No. 213.
Please note that the agency is not persuaded that FMVSS No. 213 should be amended to have the Hip Hugger be considered a child restraint system or a belt-positioning seat. 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, 13504). In withdrawing the rulemaking, NHTSA expressed concern that the rulemaking could have resulted in some parents thinking that seat belt positioners and belt-positioning seats were interchangeable as far as occupant protection, which the agency does not believe to be true. NHTSA believed that children who have outgrown their toddler seats are best restrained when in a belt-positioning seat. A copy of the 2004 notice is enclosed.
In closing, we trust that our several letters to you about the Hip Hugger have fully addressed your questions. Because we have limited resources and staff, we regret that we will not be able to answer further letters from you on this subject that are redundant with regard to the issues you have previously raised. Thank you for your interest in FMVSS No. 213, and if you need further information you may call Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
 Child restraint system is defined in FMVSS No. 213 (S4) as follows: Child restraint system means any device, except Type I or 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.
 As noted in previous correspondence, your device is an item of motor vehicle equipment. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment must ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects.