James C. Chen, Esq.
Crowell & Moring LLP
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mr. Chen:
This responds to your letter requesting an interpretation of the air bag warning label requirement for infant seats. You ask whether a specific child seat design is compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, with regard to the placement of a required warning label. Judging from your description of the warning label, the photographs you provided, and the intended purpose of the warning label, we believe that the answer is no.
Paragraph S5.5.2(k)(3) of FMVSS No. 213 specifies the warning label on a rear-facing child seat be located on the outer surface of the cushion or padding in or adjacent to the area where a childs head would rest, so that the label is plainly visible and easily readable. The rationale for the location of the label was set forth in the final rule establishing that requirement, which stated: The label can be either where the child's head rests or adjacent to that area. The purpose of the new location is to ensure that parents see the label each time they place the seat in a vehicle. 61 FR 60206, 60214 (November 27, 1996).
As you know, when NHTSA issued the air bag warning label, it was the most important issue to communicate to consumers. Id. NHTSA required the label to be where the childs head rests or adjacent to that area to ensure that parents see the label each time they place the seat in a vehicle. Id. The warning is still highly important. By virtue of its being covered up by the removable cushioning pad, even if partially so, the warning is not plainly visible or easily readable as required by FMVSS No. 213.
In your letter, you argue that previous interpretation letters can be distinguished from your clients situation because in the previous scenarios, there was a complete obstruction of the required labeling (see June 6, 2006 letter to Cristina M. Offenberg, a motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business that obscures the warning label by covering it with a car seat cover may be subject to penalties for violating 30122; January 3, 1991 letter to Tom Wiatrak, a pad covering information required by FMVSS No. 213 would be acceptable if the required information were permanently labeled on the pad and the information is visible when the seat is installed). We do not agree that a partial obstruction of the air bag warning label meets the standard when the warning is not plainly visible or easily readable.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke