Search Interpretations


Ms. Sara Hansen

RS Hansen Enterprises

N5804 Albany N

Mondovi, WI 54755-9608

Dear Ms. Hansen:

This responds to your letter asking whether a German motorcycle child seat for scooters or motorcycles is regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You ask about the laws and regulations that would apply to this product.

By way of background, NHTSA is authorized under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, Safety Act) to issue and enforce Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment manufactured for sale, sold, offered for sale or imported into the United States of America. NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet all applicable standards. Under the Safety Act, manufacturers also must ensure that their products are free from safety-related defects. The term manufacturer includes not only persons who manufacture or assemble vehicles and equipment, but also persons who import them for sale in the U.S.

In your brief letter, you state that you would like to import the child seat. You attached a two-page instruction pamphlet produced by the child seat manufacturer. The instructions indicate that the child seat is fitted over the scooter or motorcycle seats back or sides, or is placed on top of the seat. It has a retaining strap that attaches the child seat to the vehicle seat. One strap attaches to the seat cushion, another strap attaches forward of the child seat to prevent the child seat from slipping backwards, and other straps loop around the scooters or motorcycles rack or bar behind the child seat. The child seat has no safety belts for the child. The instructions state: 1. Place the child in the child seat so that his/her back is flat against the backrest. 2. Place the feet in the footrests. 3. The driver then sits back on the vehicle seat until his/her behind is touching the child. This will prevent the child from sliding forwards.

The following is our interpretation based on the information you provided.

While the device you ask about is considered an item of motor vehicle equipment under the Safety Act, it is not subject to any FMVSS. NHTSA issued FMVSS No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, which applies to the manufacture and sale of new child restraint systems. Child restraint system is defined in S4 of the standard to mean 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 30 kilograms (kg) or less. FMVSS No. 213 was not intended to apply to seats for motorcycles. Its requirements were developed and drafted with the intention that they apply to restraint devices used in the interiors of vehicle types like passenger cars and multipurpose passenger vehicles.

Further, the device you describe is designed to seat children who weigh 30 kg (65 pounds) or less, but the seat is not designed for use in a motor vehicle or aircraft. (Emphasis added.)

Since the item of equipment is not a child restraint system regulated by FMVSS No. 213, the manufacturer would be prohibited from making any statements stating or implying that the seat is certified as meeting FMVSS No. 213. Under the Safety Act, an importer is a manufacturer. Accordingly, you would be prohibited from stating that the device meets FMVSS No. 213 or labeling the device as meeting the standard.

You should also be aware of several other matters.

As noted above, the Safety Act imposes responsibilities on manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment regarding safety-related defects. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the vehicles and equipment they manufacture are free from safety-related defects and can perform their intended function safely. If the manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a safety-related defect exists, the manufacturer is obligated under the Safety Act to notify purchasers of its product and remedy the problem free of charge.

Note that individual States are responsible for setting requirements for the operation of vehicles in their jurisdictions, including requirements for restraining and otherwise transporting children. We suggest you check State law as to whether the equipment item you described would be permitted to be used in the various States.

Finally, in addition to the provisions discussed above, there is a possibility of liability in tort should your device prove to be unsafe in operation. You may wish to consult a local lawyer concerning liability in tort.

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the following about transporting children on motorcycles. There is a significantly greater risk of death and injury to motorcycle riders and passengers than that to occupants of passenger cars. The fatality rate per vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a motorcycle is 39 times greater than that in a passenger car, and the injury rate per VMT in a motorcycle is 8 times greater than that in a passenger car. In 2008, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT was 36.52 in a motorcycle, compared to 0.92 in a passenger car. Similarly, the injury rate per 100 million VMT was 663 in a motorcycle, compared to 83 in a passenger car. These data show that children are much safer transported in cars than on motorcycles.

We are interested in reviewing any data you have on how the motorcycle child seat has performed in the field, such as data showing whether the device has had a bearing on the incidents, extent or nature of injuries and fatalities to child passengers on motorcycles. Please send the information to NHTSAs Office of Crashworthiness Standards, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20590.

If you have further questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


O. Kevin Vincent

Chief Counsel