20 Begonia St.
Casper, WY 82604
Dear Ms. Hawker:
This responds to your letter asking about safety regulations for a product you wish to manufacture. You describe the product as "bunting" that fits inside an infant-only car seat. (An infant-only seat is lightweight and is easily used as an infant carrier to carry an infant to and from the car.) The bunting is intended as a substitute for a blanket. You state that the bunting has slots through which the harness on the car seat is threaded and the buckle of the harness is attached to the car seat. You believe that, when properly installed, "the bunting in no way interferes with the adjustment or function of the safety straps or buckle mechanism."
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. The following represents our opinion based on the information in your letter.
There is currently no Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) that directly applies to your product. 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." (S4 of FMVSS 213) The standard does not apply to child seat accessories that are sold separately from the child seats, such as car seat pillows, pads and bunting.
While no FMVSS applies to the bunting, 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 bunting 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. Standard 213 specifies flammability resistance requirements for infant seats. Any person listed in '30122 who installs the bunting must ensure that the product does not vitiate the seat'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.
I would like to close with the following remarks. It is crucial for the safety of an infant that the straps of its infant seat retain the baby's torso in a crash. Excessive slack in the straps due to the straps binding up on a fabric liner in the seat (such as bunting material), or because of excessive compression of the liner, can cause shoulder straps to move off an infant's shoulders. As a consequence, the infant can be ejected from the seat. We know that you recognize the importance of the straps in a crash, and that you believe that the bunting will not interfere with their adjustment or function. We underscore the importance of this feature. Bunting material that degrades the ability of an infant seat to restrain its occupant would be an obvious safety problem.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel
Enclosure ref:213 d:2/2/95