Regulatory Affairs Division
Office of the General Counsel
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C. 20207
Dear Mr. Brauninger:
This letter responds to your inquiry of whether PepperGas brand Defensive Pepper Spray (a defensive chemical spray used for protection from attackers) is an item of motor vehicle equipment. You forwarded a letter and some advertising literature from Mr. Dennis English, who after purchasing the "specially formulated automotive model" spray in a market, attached it to his sun visor, as illustrated in the advertising. While he was driving, the canister of spray leaked on him and on his child safety seat. The answer to your question is that this model of PepperGas defensive spray is an item of motor vehicle equipment.
As you are aware, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. 49 USC 30102(a)(7) defines the term "motor vehicle equipment" as:
(A) any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured;
(B) any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as any accessory or addition to a motor vehicle; or
(C) any device or an article or apparel ... that is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle and is manufactured, sold, delivered, offered, or intended to be used only to safeguard motor vehicles and highway users against risk of accident, injury, or death. (Emphasis added.)
The agency uses two criteria in determining whether a device is an "accessory." The first criterion is whether a substantial portion of the expected use of the item is related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. We determine a product's expected use by considering product advertising, product labeling, and the type of store that
retails the product, as well as available information about the actual use of the product. The second criterion is whether the product is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles. If a product satisfies both criteria, then the product would be an "accessory."
Applying these criteria to the "specially formulated automotive model" PepperGas spray, we conclude that it is an accessory. The advertising and product labeling state that "PepperGas brand for automobiles" is "designed for personal protection and safe storage in vehicles." It says it is needed "while driving your own automobile." It is allegedly "especially formulated" to withstand the extreme temperatures in parked vehicles, up to 200 degrees F. It is advertised and pictured as attached to the sun visor, map pouch, center console and other vehicle locations with the built-in clip or enclosed Velcro backing. Due to the advertising, special design, and labeling, we conclude that its expected use is related to the operation of the motor vehicle. Since Mr. English purchased it at a market, we conclude that the product is purchased and principally used by ordinary users of motor vehicles. We note that only this particular model which is marked to be used especially in motor vehicles is a motor vehicle accessory.
Mr. English may call NHTSA's Auto Safety Hotline at (800) 424-9393 to report the incident. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Paul Atelsek of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel
cc: Mr. Dennis English