Infant Product Engineer
3226 Quitman Street
Denver, CO 80212
Dear Mr. Aaron:
This responds to your letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking our approval of a front-facing and a rear-facing harness restraint system you would like to sell to transport children in motor vehicles. You state that the harnesses are designed to attach to a vehicle seat by way of tethers attaching to the anchors of a child restraint anchorage system and not by the vehicles belt system. You state that you ceased offering your harnesses for sale after being contacted by Mr. Zack Fraser of NHTSAs Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC). Mr. Fraser informed you that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child restraint systems, requires harnesses to meet the dynamic test requirements of FMVSS No. 213 when attached to a vehicle seat assembly using a vehicle lap belt. You ask whether Mr. Frasers statement about FMVSS No. 213 is correct.
As explained below, we confirm Mr. Frasers statement. FMVSS No. 213 requires harnesses to attach to a vehicle seat by way of the vehicle lap (Type 1) belt. It appears from the information available to us that your harnesses can not be certified as meeting FMVSS No. 213 since, among other reasons, the restraint systems are attached by a tether system and not by the vehicle lap belt. NHTSA prohibits persons from offering for sale or selling new child restraint systems that are not certified as meeting FMVSS No. 213.
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 under 49 U.S.C. Sections 30101, et seq. (the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act)). Under the authority of the Safety Act, we issued FMVSS No. 213 (49 CFR 571.213), which establishes requirements for child restraint systems, i.e., 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; supplemental notice, January 23, 2008, 73 FR 3901.)
Child restraint system manufacturers must certify that each of their new child restraints satisfies all requirements of FMVSS No. 213. NHTSA does not approve or certify child restraints.
OVSC enforces manufacturers compliance with the Safety Act and with the FMVSSs, including FMVSS No. 213. Among other activities, OVSC purchases and tests child restraints according to the procedures specified in the standard. If the child restraint fails the test and is 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). NHTSA also investigates safety-related defects.
In your letter to us, you do not describe your harnesses in detail or include photographs of the restraint systems. You instead generally state that your Rear-facing system is designed to attach to three rearward child restraint anchorage systems and, the evidently approved Swedish System (Britex) [sic] under the front seat.
From your description, we believe your harnesses do not meet FMVSS No. 213. Section 5.3.2 of FMVSS No. 213 requires each child restraint system to comply with the standards performance requirements when installed solely by each of the means indicated in the following table for the particular type of child restraint system. The table for S5.3.2 shows that for the type of harness you wish to produce, the harnesses must be capable of meeting the requirements of the standard when installed with a Type 1 seat belt assembly (i.e., a vehicle lap belt). (The table indicates that, for harnesses, a top tether may be used, if needed.) Your harnesses are not capable of being installed on a vehicle seat by the lap belt system. As such, they do not meet the requirements of the standard, and can not be certified as meeting FMVSS No. 213.
It appears that your harnesses would not meet other requirements of FMVSS No. 213. You refer to a Britex [sic] anchor under the front seat. Note that the requirement in S5.3.2 that harnesses must meet FMVSS No. 213 performance criteria when installed solely by the Type 1 belt system also means that, in our compliance test, we will not use a supplementary anchoring system forward of the child restraint. Your restraint must meet the performance requirements of FMVSS No. 213 when attached to the test seat assembly as specified in the standard. OVSC will use only a lap belt and the top tether of the standard seat assembly specified in FMVSS No. 213 to attach your harness to the assembly (see S6.1.2(a)(1)(i)(A) of the standard).
We would like to comment on some additional matters. At one time, you had a website (www.grandmaknows.org or www.grandmaknows.com, both presently defunct) that showed a rear-facing child restraint system positioned in a vehicles rear seat. It appeared to NHTSA staff viewing the website that the top of the rear-facing restraint was slung like a hammock from the head restraint of the front passenger seat to a ceiling anchor in the rear. Anchoring a restraint to or hanging it from the head restraint is not permitted by FMVSS No. 213. S5.3.1 of the standard specifies that each add-on child restraint system (including a harness) must not have any means designed for attaching the system to a vehicle seat cushion or vehicle seat back. This requirement is intended to ensure that a child restraint is easy to install and does not impose excessive force on the seat in front of it. We are also concerned about the crash protection afforded a child when suspended from the head restraint of the vehicle seat in front of it. Forces imposed by the seat and/or by an occupant of the seat could degrade the safety of the child in a crash.
There appear to be a number of potential problems with this rear-facing restraint meeting FMVSS No. 213. For instance, NHTSA would not test a rear-facing restraint by suspending it from a ceiling anchor; a ceiling anchor does not exist on our test seat assembly. Further, it does not appear that the rear-facing system meets S5.1.4 of FMVSS No. 213, which limits the angle between the systems back support surface and the vertical. You as the manufacturer are responsible for ensuring compliance of your product with each of the applicable requirements of the Safety Act and FMVSS No. 213.
If you have further questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent
 49 CFR 571.225.
 We take this opportunity to bring these issues to your attention, but this letter can not and does not assess your products conformance with each requirement of FMVSS No. 213. It is your responsibility as the child restraint manufacturer to assess your products conformance with the standard.