Ms. Desire Kootungal
12405 Alameda Trace Circle 1012
Austin, TX 78727
Dear Ms. Kootungal:
This responds to your inquiry to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking whether it is permissible to provide two harnesses with the child restraint system you wish to produce. As explained below, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child restraint systems, does not prohibit you from providing two harnesses.
By way of background, NHTSA administers Federal safety requirements for the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles and items of new motor vehicle equipment. We are authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards to reduce highway crashes and deaths and injuries resulting from crashes (49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq.). Under that authority, we issued FMVSS No. 213 (49 CFR 571.213), which sets forth requirements which must be met by any device designed for use in a motor vehicle to restrain, seat or position children who weigh 65 pounds or less. (We currently are considering a proposal to increase this weight limit to 80 pounds. Notice of proposed rulemaking, August 31, 2005, 70 FR 51720.) Child restraint manufacturers must certify that each of their child restraints satisfy all requirements of FMVSS No. 213. FMVSS No. 213 is frequently amended and manufacturers are responsible for keeping current on its requirements. For purposes of enforcement, this agency conducts validation checks of child restraints after they have been certified as complying with FMVSS No. 213, by purchasing and testing the child restraints according to the procedures specified in the standard. If the child restraints fail the test and are determined not to comply with FMVSS No. 213, the manufacturer of the child restraint is subject to the recall responsibilities of our statute (49 U.S.C. 30120). Manufacturers must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects.
You ask about S126.96.36.199 of FMVSS No. 213, which states:
Each belt that is part of a child restraint system and that is designed to restrain a child using the system shall be adjustable to snugly fit any child whose height and weight are within the ranges recommended in accordance with S5.5.2(f) [which requires the manufacturers recommendations for the maximum mass and height of children who can safety occupy the system] and who is positioned in the system in accordance with the instructions required by S5.6.
You explain that you are working with a company that is designing a child restraint system (CRS) for physically handicapped children, for use only in the forward-facing position. The CRS would provide five-point restraint for children ranging in weight from 22 to 130 pounds (lb). You state that, to accommodate the broad range of occupants, the CRS must be sold with two harnesses, which together would encompass the weight and height ranges that the restraint is designed for. You ask:
Is it permissible to have two harnesses, with the second (larger) harness designed and specified to be used only by children weighing more than 66 lb (or 81 lb when the new standard becomes effective)?
FMVSS No. 213 does not prohibit manufacturers from providing more than one harness with child restraint systems. We interpret the requirement in S188.8.131.52 that each beltshall be adjustable to snugly fit any child of a height and weight recommended for the restraint as not to require that each belt (harness) alone must be adjustable to fit all the children recommended for the restraint. Rather, that section requires each child restraint to be sold with sufficient belts (harnesses) that provide the adjustability needed to snugly fit the child occupants recommended for the restraint. Of course, each belt (harness) sold with the restraint would each have to meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 213 for belts, belt buckles and belt webbing (S5.4), flammability resistance (S5.7), and all other applicable requirements.
There is an issue in your question as to whether child restraints recommended for children weighing more than the upper weight limit of the standard (65 lb, or in the future 80 lb assuming the standard were amended as currently proposed) may have features not permitted by the standard. For your information, our general view on this issue is that manufacturers are not permitted to avoid complying with FMVSS No. 213 simply by labeling their child restraint as not recommended for children within the weight range of Standard No. 213, if in fact the restraint is marketed toward or otherwise will likely be used by children weighing 65 lb (or in the future, 80 lb) or less. NHTSA would check whether the manufacturers assertion is bona fide. Moreover, restraint systems for children weighing 65 lb (or in the future, 80 lb) or more are motor vehicle equipment under our Safety Act, and as such must be free of safety-related defects.
Finally, we note a procedural regulation that would apply to you if you begin manufacturing child restraints. 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification, requires a manufacturer of child restraints to submit its name, address, and a brief description of the equipment it manufactures to this agency within 30 days of the date the child restraints are first manufactured. I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes the responsibilities of manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Please note that our address has changed. Our new address is: Office of the Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Mail Code: W41-227, Washington, DC 20590.
Anthony M. Cooke
 Note that NHTSA administers an Ease-of-Use (EOU) consumer information program that rates child restraints on their ease of use (49 CFR 575.201). This program started in 2002, when Congress directed us to establish a child restraint safety rating consumer information program to provide practicable, readily understandable, and timely information to consumers for use in making informed decisions in the purchase of child restraints. The EOU program encourages CRS manufacturers to produce child restraints with features that make it easier for consumers to use and install correctly. See final rule, November 5, 2002, 67 FR 67491, Docket 10052. The EOU program currently does not evaluate restraints targeted to handicapped children. We do not know the details of your design but broadly speaking, a child restraint sold to the general public with a design that required the owner to replace the harness when the child outgrew it would likely receive reduced marks in the EOU program.