Advanced Design Associates
Tigard, OR 97223
Dear Mr. Monnie:
This responds to your letter asking about Federal requirements for a product you have developed to improve the securement of child safety seats. You stated that the product is a one-piece steel bracket which "is installed on the seatbelt of the vehicle, to prevent slippage between the lap and shoulder portions of the seatbelt and to tighten up slack in the lap portion of the seatbelt." You indicated that the product would be installed on a temporary basis and that it would be sold in the "aftermarket" to persons owning child restraint systems. You request an interpretation of whether Standards No. 209, 213, or any other standard would apply to your device.
By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. The agency does not approve, certify or endorse any vehicles or equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet all applicable standards. The following represents our opinion based on the facts provided in your letter.
There is currently no Federal motor vehicle safety standard that would apply to your product. It appears from your description of the product that it would be a type of device that we call a "locking clip." A locking clip is a bracket into which a vehicle's lap and shoulder belt webbing is threaded. A locking clip tightens the webbing around a child safety seat and prevents the safety seat from moving easily. We have no safety standard that applies to locking clips. Standard 209 sets forth requirements for new seat belt assemblies. However, since your product would not be installed as part of a new seat belt assembly, the standard would not apply. Standard 213 is our standard for child restraints. It 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 50 pounds or less" (S4 of Standard 213). Since your device would not itself restrain, seat or position a child, it would not be a child restraint system. Therefore, Standard No. 213 would not apply to your product.
While no FMVSS applies to your product, your device is considered to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. As a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. ''30118-30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. 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, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to 49 U.S.C. section 30122, which prohibits them from installing the device if the installation "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard. It appears unlikely from the nature of your product that it would be placed in vehicles by commercial businesses instead of child restraint owners. However, if your product were to be installed by persons in those categories, they must ensure that its installation does not compromise the safety protection provided by a child restraint system or the vehicle belt system. The prohibition of section 30122 does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment.
Please note that we have a concern about the possible misuse of your device. Our safety standards require specific levels of performance for a vehicle's safety belt system. For example, Standard 208 has requirements that ensure that a vehicle's lap and shoulder belts are installed to distribute the crash forces over the skeletal structure of the occupant. The safety standards also have requirements for belts to automatically lock and retract. Your device attaches to the belt system, and will stay in place until the consumer removes it. Since it attaches to the belt system, it could affect the ability of the system to protect an adult occupant, or a child restrained without a child safety seat. We suggest that you provide clear instructions to the consumer to remove the device from the belt webbing when the belt system is used without a child restraint system.
In closing, I note for your information that NHTSA published a final rule in October 1993 requiring the safety belts in new motor vehicles to be capable of tightly securing child safety seats, without the necessity of the user's attaching any device, such as a locking clip, to the seat belt webbing, retractor, or any other part of the vehicle. The rule applies to vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 1995. I have enclosed a copy of the rule.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Edward Glancy of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel
ref:208#209#213 d:10/27/94 Please note that the "National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act" and the "Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act" to which the information sheet refers have recently been recodified in Title 49 of the United States Code. This means that the citations used in the information sheet are outdated; however, the substantive requirements described in the sheet have not changed.