Ms. Diana D. Smith
Belly Pad Buddies
1795 N. Fry Rd., #148
Katy, TX 77449
Dear Ms. Smith:
This responds to your letter about a product you market called the Belly Pad Buddy, which you describe as a type of pad designed for use with an infant child restraint (infant seat) with a 5-point harness restraint. You ask for information about Federal and state requirements that apply to your product.
According to your letter, the Belly Pad Buddy was designed to help prevent pinching caused by the 5-point harness buckle when securing the infant in the car seat carrier. Other benefits can be that it helps prevent against a hot buckle and provides a cushion to protect the infant from the hard buckle. The pad is attached to the infant seat by strapping a part of it around the infant seat crotch strap. The Belly Pad Buddy consists of a 4- by 6-inch pad that is about to 1 inches thick. You state that the product is sold in the aftermarket for installation by the owner of the infant seat in his or her own vehicle.
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 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.
There currently are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that directly apply to the Belly Pad Buddy. 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 accessory items, such as a pad that is used with a child restraint system.
While no FMVSS applies to the Belly Pad Buddy, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are 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 the Belly Pad Buddy 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.
You state in your letter that you believe that the Belly Pad Buddy does not interfere with the infant seats buckle restraint system. Because we do not approve or certify products, we cannot agree or disagree with your assessment. Instead, we note for your consideration that FMVSS No. 213 requires specific levels of performance for infant seats as a system and also for seat webbing and buckles as components of the child restraint system, whose performance could be affected by aftermarket accessory pads. Further, an aftermarket pad inserted between the webbing and the child passenger could compress in a crash and degrade the ability of the belt system to properly restrain the infant in a crash. In addition, FMVSS No. 213 specifies flammability resistance requirements for child restraints. Any person listed in 30122 who installs a Belly Pad Buddy 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 the Belly Pad Buddy. For information about those requirements, you should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in any state in which the equipment will be sold or used.
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
 This description is based on your letter and on a photograph of your product shown on your website: www.bellypadbuddies.com.