1847 Fourteenth Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Dear Mr. Karoly:
Thank you for your letter regarding your device, the Saflex Booster, which is designed to elevate a child above the vehicle seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appreciates your interest in child passenger safety.
The objective of increasing safety for children is also a goal of the agency. The agency is deeply concerned about children, and about infants in rear-facing child safety seats who have been seriously injured or killed by deploying air bags. NHTSA recently issued a final rule which will allow manufacturers to quickly begin depowering air bags to reduce the injuries and fatalities from deploying air bags. A final rule also has been issued to require warning labels in all vehicles with air bags and on rear-facing child seats. These warning labels alert occupants about hazards associated with deploying air bags and also strongly recommend that parents put children in the rear seat, especially infants in a rear-facing child safety seat.
We believe that the message that children belong in the rear seat cannot be overemphasized, especially for infants in rear-facing child seats.
Your Saflex Booster is designed to elevate the child (sitting alone or in a child seat) to possibly reduce hazards of air bag deployment for some air bag designs. We are concerned that not enough is known about air bags and their effect on children to know whether the risk to children would be reduced by your product. Many air bag and child seat designs would need to be tested to evaluate these risks. Further, as explained below, elevating the child as the Saflex Booster does could expose the child to other potential risks of fatality or serious injury.
NHTSA has the authority under 49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq. ("the Safety Act"), to issue motor vehicle safety standards for vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. The agency has used this authority to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems ("Standard 213").
Standard No. 213 specifies requirements for child restraint systems used in motor vehicles and aircraft, to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes and in aircraft. The term "child restraint system" is defined in S4 of the standard as "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." As described in your letter, the Saflex Booster meets the child restraint system definition, since it is designed to seat a child in a motor vehicle. Under the Safety Act, each child restraint system that is sold in the United States must be certified as complying with Standard 213, including the Saflex Booster.
NHTSA does not approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, under the Safety Act, each manufacturer is responsible for "self-certifying" that its products meet all applicable safety standards. Accordingly, any person manufacturing your booster seat would have to certify that the seat complies with the requirements of Standard 213.
We are unable to determine whether a particular seat design would meet the requirements of the standard, short of testing the seat in an actual compliance proceeding. However, we would like to raise the following concerns about your booster seat design.
Your booster appears to be a "belt-positioning seat" under Standard 213. Belt-positioning seats are required by Standard 213 to be restrained against forward motion by the vehicle's lap/shoulder belt system. Your booster seat is held in place by a strap which goes around the vehicle's seat back and is supplied with the Saflex Booster. If your seat cannot meet Standard 213's requirements with only a lap/shoulder belt, it could not be certified as complying with the standard and thus may not be sold.
The second concern relates to the possibility that a child positioned on the Saflex Booster could be ejected under the lap belt portion of the seat belt assembly (feet first) in a crash. We raise this concern because the booster seat can elevate a child four to 12 inches off the vehicle seat. Crash forces could compress the booster, which could result in excessive slack in the vehicle belt system. Standard 213 requires booster seats to limit head and knee excursions of a restrained test dummy. If the Saflex Booster does not meet the excursion limits, it cannot be certified as complying with Standard 213.
We have enclosed a copy of Standard 213 for your information. We have also enclosed as an information sheet that briefly describes manufacturers' responsibilities under Federal law for manufacturing vehicles and items of equipment, such as the responsibility to ensure these products do not have any safety-related defects.
We strongly encourage the marketplace development of any system that can increase safety. While we are concerned that your device may not keep children from being injured by air bags and may not comply with FMVSS No. 213, we encourage your continued interest.
Acting Chief Counsel