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Interpretation ID: 9137

Mr. Greg Biba
172820 Highway QQ #8
Waupaca, WI 54981

Dear Mr. Biba:

This responds to your letter asking about safety regulations for a device you would like to sell. The device is an "infant observation mirror" that would allow parents to see their baby's face when the infant restraint is installed in the rear seat of a vehicle. The mirror is on a stand that sits under the infant restraint.

By way of background information, 103 of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act ("Safety Act," 15 U.S.C. 1392) authorizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue 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, the Safety Act establishes a "self- certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. The agency periodically tests vehicles and items of equipment for compliance with the standards.

In response to your question, there is currently no Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) that directly applies to the product you wish to manufacture. Under the authority of the Safety Act, NHTSA has issued Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, which specifies requirements for child restraint systems used in motor vehicles and aircraft. However, Standard No. 213 applies only to new child restraint systems and not to aftermarket components of a child restraint system, such as an observation mirror.

I note, however, that there are other Federal laws that indirectly affect your manufacture and sale of the device. Under the Safety Act, 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 in 151-159 of the Safety Act concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those responsibilities. In the event that you or NHTSA determines that your mirror 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, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to 108(a)(2)(A) of the Safety Act, which states: "No manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business shall knowingly render inoperative ... any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard ...." It appears unlikely from the nature of your product that it would be placed in vehicles by commercial businesses instead of child restraint owners. However, if your product were to be installed by persons in those categories, they should ensure that its installation does not compromise the safety protection provided by a child restraint system. The prohibition of 108(a)(2)(A) does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment.

The "render inoperative" prohibition of 108(a)(2)(A) does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. However, NHTSA urges owners not to undertake modifications that would reduce the efficacy of any safety device or element of design. We note that an observation mirror could be struck by an infant in a crash, such as during the "rebound" phase of a frontal impact. In the interest of safety, we suggest you manufacture your mirror so that the risk of head injuries in a crash is minimized.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:213 d:10/25/93