ArJan USA, Ltd.
210 Ironwood Lane
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Dear Mr. Chertavian:
This responds to your letter asking three questions about the applicability of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213 to the "Safesit Car Safety Seat," which is designed for children weighing 33-80 pounds. I apologize for the delay in responding. Our answers are provided below, following each of your questions. Briefly stated, the standard applies to the seat. In addition, we do not consider the seat to be a booster seat as you suggested.
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.
Question 1: "Is the [Safesit] regulated under Standard 213? . . . The original intent of the seat was not to act as a booster seat but to safely rearrange shoulder and lap belts for children who have grown out of the booster seat stage."
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, definition of child restraint system.)
In the past, NHTSA has determined that devices that simply reposition vehicle belts for children are not child restraint systems, when the device positions just the belts and not the child to fit the belts. However, your system is designed to position the belts by way of a padded seat for the child, and thus falls within the purview of the "designed ... to restrain, seat, or position children" language of the child restraint system definition (emphasis added). Because the Safesit meets the definition of a child restraint system, it is regulated by Standard 213.
We note that this accords with the advertising literature you enclosed with your letter, which describes the Safesit as a "Car Safety Seat," and "The Ultimate Child Restraint System." Calling your device a "car safety seat" and a "child restraint system" implies that the Safesit is regulated by Standard 213 and makes it foreseeable that the restraint will be used as such.
Question 2: If Standard 213 applies, is the seat a backless child restraint system or a belt-positioning seat?
The answer is neither. Backless child restraint systems and belt-positioning seats are types of "booster seats" (S4). Standard 213 defines "backless child restraint system" as "a child restraint, other than a belt-positioning seat, that consists of a seating platform that does not extend up to provide a cushion for the child's back or head and has a structural element designed to restrain forward motion of the child's torso in a forward impact." The Safesit lacks the structural element described in the "backless child restraint" definition and thus is not a backless child restraint. A "belt-positioning" child seat is defined in S4 of the standard as:
[A] child restraint system that positions a child on a vehicle seat to improve the fit of a vehicle Type II [lap and shoulder] belt system on the child and that lacks any component, such as a belt system or a structural element, designed to restrain forward movement of the child's torso in a forward impact. (Emphasis added.)
The Safesit does not "position a child" to improve the fit of the belt system. Rather, the Safesit changes the positioning of the belts by routing the lap belt over the femurs of the child and between the legs, and by pulling the shoulder belt down off the face and neck. Because of this, the Safesit is not a belt-positioning child seat. The Safesit would be considered to be a child restraint system other than a booster seat.
Question 3: Regarding the ultimate classification of the seat, does it satisfy the requirements of Standard 213?
Under S6.1.2 of Standard 213, the Safesit would be tested in Standard 213's dynamic test while secured to the vehicle seat with only a lap belt. It appears unlikely that the seat would meet Standard 213's requirements when tested in this manner, since the seat provides no upper torso restraint for the child. Also, a child seat recommended for use by children weighing 33-80 lb. would be tested with test dummies representing a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old child. If the Safesit cannot meet the requirements of Standard 213 so tested, it cannot be certified to the standard.
We also note that the Safesit design routes the lap belt portion of a Type II belt over the child's femurs, thereby subjecting the long thigh bones of the child to potential crash forces. You should fully evaluate whether the femurs can withstand the crash forces that could be imposed on them.
I have enclosed an information sheet for your information, which briefly outlines NHTSA's standards for new manufacturers. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel