Skip to main content
Search Interpretations

Interpretation ID: 24724_PruittTray

    Ms. Ondiya Pruitt
    956 Zion Circle
    Roswell, GA 30075

    Dear Ms. Pruitt:

    This responds to your letter asking about safety regulations for a "car seat tray" that you wish to manufacture. The documents you have provided indicate that the tray is intended to provide an "eating/play surface that can be positioned within the reach on an infant or young child that is sitting in a child restraint seat."From the sketch you provided, it appears that the tray attaches to the child restraint by flexible straps. You state that the tray would be sold to owners of child restraints through stores selling baby products and related items.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA has used its authority to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, "Child Restraint Systems," to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicles. (This standard is found in volume 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, 571.213.[1]) Each new child restraint system, which includes "car seats," must be certified as complying with the requirements of Standard No. 213. This means that, if your car seat tray were sold as part of a new child restraint, the child restraint would be required to comply with all of the requirements of the standard with the tray attached.

    As Part of A New Child Restraint

    It does not appear that a new child restraint could meet Standard No. 213 with the tray installed. Section S5.2.2.2 of the standard prohibits any fixed or moveable surface in front of the child except for surfaces that adequately restrain a test dummy in a 20 mile per hour test (see also S6.1.1(b)(2) and S6.1.2(a)(2)). The requirement is to prevent items that could injure a child in a crash from being installed where they could be impacted by a child. It appears that your tray would not be able to restrain the test dummy in the test. If so, a child restraint with the tray would not comply with Standard No. 213. In other words, a manufacturer of a child restraint could not sell such a tray as a part of its new child restraint system.

    Also, a new child restraint with the tray attached to it might not comply with S5.2.4 of Standard No. 213. S5.2.4 requires any rigid part of the child restraint that can be contacted by the head or torso of the dummy in the dynamic test to have a height of not more than 3/8 inch above any adjacent surface, and have no exposed edge with a radius of less than 1/4 inch. If the head or torso of a restrained dummy could impact the tray, these requirements apply.

    Further, child restraint systems recommended for use by children weighing less than 20 pounds must comply with paragraph S5.2.3.2 of FMVSS No. 213. That paragraph requires that each child restraint surface contactable by the child dummys head during a crash test shall be covered with slow recovery energy absorbing materials with specified characteristics. This requirement ensures that children riding in these child restraints will not suffer unnecessary head injuries during crashes.

    Aftermarket Item

    If your product will be sold to consumers as an aftermarket item, Standard No. 213 does not apply to it, since the standard only applies to new child restraints and not to accessory items. There is no Federal motor vehicle safety standard that applies to a tray.

    However, while Standard No. 213 does not apply to the child restraint tray, 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. If information indicated that a child seat accessory exposed occupants to an unreasonable risk of injury, the agency might conduct a defect investigation which could lead to a safety recall.

    In addition, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to 49 U.S.C. 30122. This section prohibits them from installing the tray if it "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard, such as Standard No. 213. It appears unlikely that your product would be attached to a child restraint by persons in the aforementioned categories. However, if such a person were to attach the tray, he or she could violate 30112 if the child restraints compliance with Standard No. 213 were compromised.

    The "make inoperative" prohibition of 30122 does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment.

    Thus, child restraint owners could attach the tray without having to meet Standard No. 213. However, we urge consumers not to degrade the safety systems of their vehicles or equipment.

    I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


    [1] The agency recently proposed a number of revisions to the standard, including proposals for incorporating new test dummies and extending the standard to apply to restraints recommended for use by children up to 65 pounds. 67 FR 21806 (May 1, 2002).