Ms. Amy Schonberger
3833 Princeton Oaks
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Dear Ms. Schonberger:
This responds to your letter asking how Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child restraint systems, and FMVSS No. 302, Flammability of interior materials, apply to your aftermarket product. You have invented a type of strap holder for use with child restraint systems.
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, National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, (Vehicle Safety Act)). NHTSA does not provide approvals 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. NHTSA also investigates safety-related defects.
In your letter, you described your product with a detailed narrative that focused on specific aspects of design, such as where magnetized strap pads and stand-alone magnets are placed, but which provided a narrow overall description of the product. This letter is based on our understanding of the information you presented.
Your product is intended to keep the shoulder and buckle harness straps of a 5-point child restraint system clear of the seating area of the child restraint so that when the child is placed in the child restraint, he or she will not sit on the harness and crotch straps.
You state that your product moves and temporarily fastens the shoulder harness straps and buckle harness strap to the shell of the car seat, away from where the child sits. It appears that your invention consists of three main components: a strap holder for the left shoulder harness strap, a strap holder for the right harness strap, and a holder for the crotch strap. Each strap holder is attached to the respective strap, and each contains a magnet that is designed to connect to magnets that are attached to the left, right and lower sides of the shell of the child restraint. When the child is removed from the child restraint, it is intended that the harness and crotch straps will attach to the respective magnets and thus be kept clear of the seating surface area.
There currently are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that directly apply to your product. Our standard for "child restraint systems," FMVSS No. 213, applies to "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 65 pounds or less." (We currently are considering a proposal to increase this weight limit to 80 pounds.) The standard does not apply to aftermarket accessory items, such as a strap holder device that is used with a child restraint system.
While no FMVSS applies to the invention, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you would be subject to the requirements of the Vehicle Safety Act concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety-related defects (49 U.S.C. 30118-30121). I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those and other manufacturer responsibilities. In the event you or NHTSA determines that your product contains a safety-related defect, you would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
In addition, while it is unlikely that your product would be installed by a motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business, 49 U.S.C. 30122 prohibits those businesses from installing the device if the installation "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard.
There are some aspects of performance required by FMVSS No. 213 that could be affected by your product. The standard requires specific levels of performance for child restraints seats as a system and also for seat webbing and buckles as components of the child restraint system, whose performance could be affected by an aftermarket strap holders that attaches to each strap. An aftermarket strap holder attached to the webbing could affect the performance of the webbing in a crash. In addition, FMVSS No. 213 specifies flammability resistance requirements for child restraints. Any person listed in 30122 who installs your product must not make inoperative the flammability resistance of the child restraint system.
The prohibition of 30122 does not apply to individual owners who install equipment in their own vehicles. Thus, individual owners may install any item of motor vehicle equipment regardless of its effect on compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, NHTSA encourages vehicle owners not to degrade the safety of their vehicles or motor vehicle equipment.
State or local jurisdictions might have their own requirements for products such as yours. For information about those requirements, you should contact the State Departments of Motor Vehicles.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke