Mr. Larry J. Lisk

P.O. Box 3883

West Wendover, NV 89883

Dear Mr. Lisk:

This responds to your letter concerning a device that you call the Seat Belt Comforter. In the letter, you ask for the agencys permission to sell this product to others as an attachment to their seat belt, and for an endorsement of the product by this agency. As more fully explained below, no Federal motor vehicle safety standard specifically applies to your product. However, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you have certain responsibilities under our laws.

By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). NHTSA does not provide approvals or endorsements of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture. NHTSA selects a sampling of new vehicles and equipment each year to determine their compliance with applicable FMVSSs. If our testing or examination reveals an apparent noncompliance, we may require the manufacturer to remedy the noncompliance, and may initiate an enforcement proceeding, if necessary, to ensure that the manufacturer takes appropriate action.

We have examined the product sample and description that you have provided, and, as indicated above, have determined that no FMVSS specifically applies to this product. The Seat Belt Comforter consists of an eight-inch elastic band that has small suspender-like clips at each end. Apparently one clip would attach to the shoulder strap of a Type 2 seat belt assembly[1] and the other clip would attach to the lap belt. The elastic is intended to pull the shoulder belt downward, preventing the belt from coming in contact with the wearers neck. FMVSS No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, sets forth requirements for new seat belt assemblies. Your product does not meet the definition of a seat belt assembly, so the standard would not apply. FMVSS No. 213 Child Restraint Systems, is NHTSAs standard for child restraints. Since your product would not itself restrain, seat, or position a child, it would not be a child restraint system and thus not be subject to FMVSS No. 213. Likewise, FMVSS No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials, does not apply to your product.

However, although we do not have any FMVSSs that directly apply to your product, there are several statutory provisions that could affect its manufacture. As a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are responsible for ensuring that your product is free of safety-related defects (see 49 U.S.C. 30118-30121). The agency does not determine the existence of safety defects except in the context of a defect proceeding.

In addition, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to 49 U.S.C. section 30122, which prohibits them from installing the device if the installation "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard. It appears unlikely from the nature of your product that it would be placed in vehicles by commercial businesses instead of consumers. However, if your product were to be installed by persons in those categories, they must ensure that its installation does not compromise the safety protection provided by the vehicle belt system. The prohibition of section 30122 does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment.

Please note that the addition of any device to a vehicle's belt system raises possible safety concerns. The realigning of the shoulder belt could increase the likelihood that the wearer would twist toward the middle of the vehicle, so that the person could be partially or completely unrestrained by the shoulder belt in a crash. In addition, if the device introduced excessive slack into the belt system, it would reduce its effectiveness. Also, aligning the lap belt off of the skeletal structure of the occupant could significantly increase the loading on the occupant's abdomen, a part of the body that cannot withstand the same loading levels as the skeletal structure.

If you should decide to manufacture the Seat Belt Comforter, we would urge you to evaluate carefully whether your product would in any way degrade the performance of vehicle safety belts. For example, you should ensure that your product would not interfere with safety belt retraction or release in an emergency, and that any adhesive or sharp edges used with your product would not cause deterioration of the safety belt webbing. Additionally, you should be aware that originally installed safety belts must meet the requirements of Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials. We encourage you to evaluate your product against the requirements of this standard to ascertain whether it would degrade the flammability performance of safety belts.

Finally, while no FMVSS applies to your product, it is still considered to be an item of motor vehicle equipment.  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.  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.

If you have any further questions please call Mr. Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel



[1] A Type 2 seat belt assembly is defined as a combination of pelvic and upper torso restraints. See FMVSS No. 209.