4233 Standish Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Dear Ms. Mortenson:
This responds to your letter asking about safety regulations for a product you wish to manufacture, called the Tiny Tent. You describe the Tiny Tent as a covering for infant car seats. (An infant car seat is lightweight and is easily used as an infant carrier to carry an infant to and from the car.) The Tiny Tent would be used when the infant is carried to and from the car in its infant seat in harsh weather.
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 that directly applies to your product. Our standard for "child restraint systems," Standard 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 Standard 213) The standard does not apply to child seat accessories that are sold separately from the child seats, such as aftermarket infant seat covers.
While no Federal safety standard applies to the Tiny Tent, 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 United States Code ''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, a motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business is prohibited by our statute from installing the Tiny Tent if the installation "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard, such as Standard 213.
The Amake inoperative@ prohibition 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.
You note in your letter that manufacturers of infant car seats usually advise users to put the car seat handle behind the seat when the restraint is used in the vehicle. You also state that the Tiny Tent Arolls up around the handle and allows this.@ We agree that any material that may prevent the handle from being secured out of the way of the child would be unsafe in a crash. We suggest you include a statement in the instructions for the Tiny Tent that the car seat handle should be stored in the manner recommended by the car seat manufacturer when the restraint is used in the vehicle.
I hope this information is 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.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
Enclosure ref:213 d:3/29/96