25 St. Edward Lane
Florissant, MO 63033
Dear Ms. Jackson:
This responds to your letters asking about safety standards, particularly those about fire safety, for a product you call the Booster Buddy Cushion. According to promotional literature accompanying your letter, the Booster Buddy Cushion is placed under infant/toddler car seats to protect the car's upholstery and to provide additional comfort to young children. The literature also indicates that older children situated in booster seats (and on actual vehicle seats) could lean on this 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. NHTSA does not, however, approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, Congress has established a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. The following represents our opinion based on the information set forth in your letter and promotional literature.
There currently are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that directly apply to the Booster Buddy Cushion. Our standard for "child restraint systems," FMVSS 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 50 pounds or less." The standard does not apply to accessory items, such as a pad/cushion that is used with a child safety seat.
While no FMVSS applies to the Booster Buddy Cushion, your product 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, while it is unlikely that the Booster Buddy Cushion 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. Our FMVSSs require specific levels of performance for materials used in the occupant compartment of motor vehicles. Specifically, FMVSS No.302 specifies flammability resistance requirements for vehicle interiors. Any person listed in '30122 who installs a Booster Buddy Cushion must ensure that the product does not undermine the vehicle's compliance with those flammability resistance requirements.
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.
We note that the pad/cushion you wish to manufacture can be used without a child seat, to cushion and support the head of a sleeping older child. We do not consider the pad/cushion to "position children" in a manner that a child seat positions children to better use a vehicle's belt system. Rather, the Booster Buddy Cushion simply provides a surface that a child may lean on. However, we are concerned about the possibility that consumers might use your product, instead of a child seat, with a child who should be restrained in a car seat. We recommend that you inform consumers purchasing your product that the Booster Buddy Cushion is not a child restraint system and must not be used as one.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Marvin Shaw or Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel