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NHTSA Interpretation File Search

Overview

NHTSA's Chief Counsel interprets the statutes that the agency administers and the standards and regulations that it issues. Members of the public may submit requests for interpretation, and the Chief Counsel will respond with a letter of interpretation. These interpretation letters look at the particular facts presented in the question and explain the agency’s opinion on how the law applies given those facts. These letters of interpretation are guidance documents. They do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. They are intended only to provide information to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. 

Understanding NHTSA’s Online Interpretation Files

NHTSA makes its letters of interpretation available to the public on this webpage. 

An interpretation letter represents the opinion of the Chief Counsel based on the facts of individual cases at the time the letter was written. While these letters may be helpful in determining how the agency might answer a question that another person has if that question is similar to a previously considered question, do not assume that a prior interpretation will necessarily apply to your situation.

  • Your facts may be sufficiently different from those presented in prior interpretations, such that the agency's answer to you might be different from the answer in the prior interpretation letter;
  • Your situation may be completely new to the agency and not addressed in an existing interpretation letter;
  • The agency's safety standards or regulations may have changed since the prior interpretation letter was written so that the agency's prior interpretation no longer applies; or
  • Some combination of the above, or other, factors.

Searching NHTSA’s Online Interpretation Files

Before beginning a search, it’s important to understand how this online search works. Below we provide some examples of searches you can run. In some cases, the search results may include words similar to what you searched because it utilizes a fuzzy search algorithm.

Single word search

 Example: car
 Result: Any document containing that word.

Multiple word search

 Example: car seat requirements
 Result: Any document containing any of these words.

Connector word search

 Example: car AND seat AND requirements
 Result: Any document containing all of these words.

 Note: Search operators such as AND or OR must be in all capital letters.

Phrase in double quotes

 Example: "headlamp function"
 Result: Any document with that phrase.

Conjunctive search

Example: functionally AND minima
Result: Any document with both of those words.

Wildcard

Example: headl*
Result: Any document with a word beginning with those letters (e.g., headlamp, headlight, headlamps).

Example: no*compl*
Result: Any document beginning with the letters “no” followed by the letters “compl” (e.g., noncompliance, non-complying).

Not

Example: headlamp NOT crash
Result: Any document containing the word “headlamp” and not the word “crash.”

Complex searches

You can combine search operators to write more targeted searches.

Note: The database does not currently support phrase searches with wildcards (e.g., “make* inoperative”). 

Example: Headl* AND (supplement* OR auxiliary OR impair*)
Result: Any document containing words that are variants of “headlamp” (headlamp, headlights, etc.) and also containing a variant of “supplement” (supplement, supplemental, etc.) or “impair” (impair, impairment, etc.) or the word “auxiliary.”

Search Tool

NHTSA's Interpretation Files Search



Displaying 1 - 10 of 16494
Interpretations Date
 

ID: 24461redactedogm

Open

    [      ]


    Dear [        ]:

    This responds to your letter asking about the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, as they relate to a device being developed by your company. I note first that your letter requests that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) accord confidential treatment for certain materials related to your request. As these materials are not needed to respond to your questions and you have agreed to their return, we are enclosing them with this response.

    According to your letter, the device, which you describe as the [                           ], would prevent the shift mechanism of a vehicle from being moved out of the "Park" position until the "driver and/or passenger seat belts are fastened." The device would also sound an audible alarm as long as the seat belts are not fastened when the vehicle's shift mechanism is not in the "Park" position. Specifically, you ask if the statutes and regulations administered by NHTSA would prohibit sale or use of the [       ] under a number of different conditions:

    1. Original Equipment Manufacturers (i.e. Ford, GM, Chrysler) offering the [    ] as an after-market device at dealerships after the vehicle has been purchased.
    2. Original Equipment Manufacturers (i.e. Ford, GM, Chrysler) offering the [    ] as an option during production.
    3. The technology being offered on the Federal Supply Schedule for retrofitting on government vehicles.
    4. The [    ] being offered commercially as an after-market device.

    The issues raised by your letter are discussed below.

    By way of background, NHTSA administers a statute requiring that motor vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States or imported into the United States be manufactured so as to reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle crashes and of deaths and injuries when crashes do occur. We refer to that statute as the Vehicle Safety Act. It is codified at 49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq.

    One of the agency's functions under the Vehicle Safety Act is to issue and enforce Federal motor vehicle safety standards. These standards specify safety performance requirements for motor vehicles and/or items of motor vehicle equipment. Manufacturers of motor vehicles must certify compliance with all applicable safety standards and permanently apply a label to each vehicle stating that the vehicle complies with all applicable FMVSSs.

    Requirements for audible and visual warnings for seat belts are established in S7 of FMVSS 208.  S7.3 specifies that the driver's seating position be equipped with a seat belt warning system that activates, under specified circumstances, a continuous or intermittent audible signal for a period of "not less than 4 seconds and not more than 8 seconds."

    On October 27, 1974, President Ford signed into law a bill that prohibited any Federal motor vehicle safety standard from requiring or permitting as a means of compliance any seat belt interlock system. The language in this bill was later codified as 49 U.S.C. 30124. This section states:

    A motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter may not require or allow a manufacturer to comply with the standard by using a safety belt interlock designed to prevent starting or operating a motor vehicle if an occupant is not using a safety belt or a buzzer designed to indicate a safety belt is not in use, except a buzzer that operates only during the 8-second period after the ignition is turned to the "start" or "on" position.

    Given this statutory provision, NHTSA does not have the authority to require, or specify as a compliance option, an interlock system that prevents a vehicle from being operated if an occupant's seat belt remains unfastened. However, the statute does not prohibit vehicle manufacturers from voluntarily providing such an interlock or a system that sounds an audible signal outside the 8 second period.

    In a letter dated June 7, 2001 to Mr. Bob Archer of Longacre Associates, we indicated that a vehicle manufacturer wishing to provide a voluntary audible signal that sounds after the 8 second period specified in S7.3 of Standard No. 208 and 30124 may do so, but must provide some means for differentiating the voluntarily provided signal from the required signal. We suggested that such differentiation could be provided in various ways, e.g., by time (the voluntarily provided signal begins well after the required signal ends) or sound (the voluntarily provided signal has a different sound than the required signal).

    It is our position that a device such as your [    ], if installed in addition to, rather than in place of, the warning system required by S7.3, may be offered either as an original equipment option or an aftermarket item if the device is configured such that it is differentiated from the warning system required by NHTSA. Therefore, any audible warning provided by the device should either sound after the required warning or have a different sound.

    Your letter asks whether the sale of the [    ], or a similar device, would be permissible under four different scenarios:

    1. Vehicle manufacturers (i.e. Ford, GM, Chrysler) offering the [    ] for installation at dealerships after the vehicle has been purchased.
    2. Vehicle manufacturers (i.e. Ford, GM, Chrysler) offering the [    ] as an option on new vehicles and installing the device during production.
    3. Installation of the device on vehicles owned by the government.
    4. The [    ] being offered commercially as an after-market device.

    In the first scenario, where the device would be installed by a new vehicle dealer after the vehicle has been purchased, the [    ] could be incorporated into new vehicles in the manner we describe.  However, installation of the [    ] by the dealer must not negatively impact any required safety system. After the first sale of a vehicle, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and repair businesses are prohibited from "knowingly making inoperative" any device or element of design installed on or in that vehicle in compliance with an applicable standard. In general, the "make inoperative" prohibition (49 U.S.C. 30122) requires businesses that modify motor vehicles to ensure that they do not remove, disconnect, or degrade the performance of safety equipment installed in compliance with an applicable standard. Although this section expressly states that the prohibition does not apply to seat belt interlocks or buzzers (49 U.S.C. 30122(d)), dealers and repair businesses installing the [    ] may not make other required safety equipment inoperative. Violations of this prohibition are punishable by civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

    In addition, if installed after sale of the vehicle, the [    ] would be considered "motor vehicle equipment" for purposes of federal law protecting the public against products that have safety defects. Therefore, if the [    ] proved to contain a defect (either in manufacture, design, or performance) that relates to motor vehicle safety, the manufacturer of record, presumably the vehicle manufacturer, would be required to conduct a recall campaign to notify owners and to remedy the defect free of charge.

    In the second scenario, where the [    ] is installed in a vehicle by the vehicle manufacturer during production, the manufacturer would be responsible for certifying that the vehicle, with the [    ] installed, complied with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. In the event that the [    ] contained a defect that related to motor vehicle safety or the vehicle did not comply with applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, the vehicle manufacturer would be responsible for conducting a recall campaign.

    The third scenario, which involves installation of the device on vehicles owned by the Federal government, would not differ from the fourth scenario, where the device is offered for sale to consumers. In both cases, the "make inoperative" provisions would apply if the device is installed by a repair business or dealer but would not apply if the owner performed the installation. In addition, where the [    ] is offered for sale for installation as an aftermarket item, i.e. for installation in a vehicle that has already been sold to an end user, it would be considered to be "motor vehicle equipment" for purposes of federal law protecting the public against products that have safety defects. Therefore, if the [    ] contained a safety defect, the manufacturer of the device would be required to conduct a recall campaign to notify owners and to remedy the defect free of charge.

    Finally, I note that your letter asks what procedures are available for modifying or repealing 49 U.S.C. 30124. NHTSA welcomes the adoption of technology that results in increases in seat belt use. You may contact your elected representatives about this or any other issue relating to our agency.

    I hope this information answers your questions. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Otto Matheke of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    ref:208
    d.9/13/02

ID: 24473.drn

Open

J. C. Powell, Esq.
Powell & Majestro PLLC
405 Capitol Street, Suite P-1200,
P.O. Box 3081
Charleston, WV 25331

Dear Mr. Powell:

This responds to your letter to Stuart Seigel, Safety Compliance Engineer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), requesting written confirmation that there is no "Federal Regulation requiring manufacturers to equip manual transmission vehicles with a starter interlock, also known alternatively as a neutral safety switch, starter safety switch, clutch safety switch, and clutch pedal position switch." Since you are asking for a legal opinion with respect to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) (49 CFR Part 571), I am responding on Mr. Seigels behalf. Your understanding that no FMVSS requires a starter interlock for manual transmission vehicles is correct.

As you are aware, Standard No. 102, Transmission shift lever sequence, starter interlock, and transmission braking effect (49 CFR 571.102), applies to passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses. Standard No. 102 specifies the requirements for the transmission shift lever sequence, a starter interlock, and for a braking effect of automatic transmissions, to reduce the likelihood of shifting errors, starter engagement with vehicle in drive position, and to provide supplemental braking at speeds below 40 kilometers [25 miles] per hour.

Paragraph S3.1.3 specifies a starter interlock only for vehicles with automatic transmissions. Standard No. 102 specifies requirements for manual transmission vehicles at paragraph S3.2 Manual transmissions. Paragraph S3.2 does not include a requirement for starter interlocks.

Please note that Standard No. 102 has never included a requirement for starter interlocks on manual transmission vehicles. Hence, in 1989 and in 1990, there was no manual transmission starter interlock requirement in Standard No. 102.

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

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Glassman
Chief Counsel
ref:102
d.6/26/02

ID: 24477a.drn

Open

Rod Nash, V.P. Engineering
Collins Industries, Inc.
15 Compound Drive
Hutchinson, KS 67502-4349

Dear Mr. Nash:

This responds to your May 30, 2002, letter asking about an April 19, 2002, final rule that amended Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release (67 FR 19343). The rule restricted where wheelchair securement anchorages may be installed, to ensure that they do not block access to emergency exit doors. You ask whether the rules restrictions limit or supercede requirements in S5.4.2 of the standard, which requires unobstructed passage of a parallelpiped through the emergency exit door. The answer is no.

Your first question concerned the meaning of S5.4.3.1, which states:

S5.4.3.1 Except as provided in paragraph S5.4.3.2 [for tracks and track-type devices running on the school bus floor] of this section, no portion of a wheelchair securement anchorage shall be located in a school bus such that:

(a) In the case of side emergency exit doors, any portion of the wheelchair securement anchorage is within the space bounded by the interior side wall and emergency exit door opening, transverse vertical planes 305 mm (12 inches) forward and rearward of the center of any side emergency exit door restricted area, and a longitudinal vertical plane through the longitudinal centerline of the school bus, as shown in Figure 6A and Figure 6B.

(b) In the case of rear emergency exit doors in school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 4,536 kg (10,000 lb), any portion of the wheelchair securement anchorage is within the space bounded by longitudinal vertical planes tangent to the left and right sides of the door opening, a transverse vertical plane 305 mm (12 inches) forward of the bottom edge of the door opening, and a horizontal plane 1,145 mm (45 inches) above the floor of the bus, as shown in Figure 6C and Figure 6D.

(c) In the case of rear emergency exit doors in school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less, any portion of the wheelchair securement anchorage is within the space bounded by longitudinal vertical planes tangent to the left and right sides of the door opening, a transverse vertical plane 150 mm (6 inches) forward of the bottom edge of the door opening, and a horizontal plane 1,145 mm (45 inches) above the floor of the bus, as shown in Figure 6C and Figure 6D.

You ask whether S5.4.3.1 means that "the exit space in front of the rear emergency exit door of a school bus is now determined by the width of that door." The answer is no. The requirements of S5.4.3.1 are separate from the requirements in S5.4.2 for minimum exit aisle space to the rear emergency exit door. The latter requirement was established in a 1976 final rule (41 FR 3871, January 27, 1976). Today, the requirement is specified at S5.4.2.1, for school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds. S5.4.2.1 requires that an opening large enough to permit unobstructed passage of a rectangular parallelepiped 1145 mm x 610 mm x 305 mm (45 inches x 24 inches x 12 inches) to the rear emergency exit door be provided, keeping the parallelepiped upright and the lower surface in contact with the floor of the bus at all times. S5.4.2.2 specifies the same requirements for school buses with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, except that the parallelepiped is 1145 mm x 550 mm x 150 mm (45 inches x 22 inches x 6 inches). S5.4.2 remains in effect today, and still requires exits on large and small school buses to be, basically, 24 and 22 inches wide, respectively, and to provide adequate emergency aisle space.[1]

The new requirements in S5.4.3.1 set forth dimensions in which wheelchair securement anchorages may not be installed. This prohibition is intended to minimize the chances that a wheelchair would be installed in a school bus in service at a position where the emergency exit would be blocked or obstructed by the wheelchair. This complements the minimum dimensional requirements for exits.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely,

Jacqueline Glassman

Chief Counsel

Enclosures



ref:217

d./8/2/02


[1] Parallelepipeds were also proposed for S5.4.3 but were not included in the final rule. The final rule stated: "NHTSA has determined that defining the space by using planes better meets NHTSAs intention in restricting spaces where the wheel chair securement may not be placed [than specifying a parallelepiped], as the space defined by planes would explicitly include the floor near the school bus rear emergency exit door." (See 67 FR at 19346.)

ID: 24516.ztv

Open

Mr. James A. Haigh
Vice President of Manufacturing
Transpec Worldwide
7205 Sterling Ponds Court
Sterling Heights, MI 48312

Dear Mr. Haigh:

This is in reply to your letter of May 28, 2002, addressed to John Womack of this Office. You related that Transpec has developed an LED sign that mounts on the rear of a school bus. The device is wired into the eight-lamp school bus warning lamp system. When the amber lamps of the system are activated, the LED sign alternately flashes "Caution-Stopping." When the red lamps of the system are activated, the sign flashes "Stop" or "Do not Pass" (the photograph you enclosed depicts this mode of the device as it operates). You also related that you have searched both Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) Nos. 108 and 131, and have found nothing in either that would prohibit use of your device. You asked for confirmation of your findings.

Your letter did not relate whether your device will be installed by a school bus manufacturer as part of the vehicles original lighting package, or purchased by school districts to be installed on buses already procured. Generally, we allow local school bus jurisdictions to exercise considerable discretion in prescribing lighting specifications that they deem desirable for their vehicles under local conditions. Further, even if the installation of a supplementary lighting device on vehicles in use might be prohibited by Federal law, the prohibition is nullified if the installation is performed by the owner of the vehicle (e.g., if the modification of the school bus is performed in the school districts own repair shops). Thus, our general answer to your question is that your device is not prohibited under Federal law.

However, we think it important to explain to you our views on electronic message boards and school bus lighting. The eight-lamp school bus warning system you reference is a required lighting system under S5.1.4 of FMVSS No. 108 (as an alternative to a four-lamp system). Paragraph S5.1.3 prohibits the addition of lighting equipment not required by FMVSS 108 (or any other motor vehicle equipment), prior to a vehicles initial sale, if it impairs the effectiveness of lighting equipment required by FMVSS 108. The issue of whether lighted messages have an impairing effect has been the subject of frequent interpretations from this Office. For a comprehensive understanding of the issue, you may access these interpretations on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations website, www.nhtsa.gov, using the search word "message." I am enclosing two representative letters, one of mid-1995 to K. Howard Sharp and the other, dated August 4, 1997, to Alan Robinson. The letter to Mr. Sharp indicates that message-board interpretations as late as 1995 had been "cautionary in tone, rather than prohibitive." The later letter to Mr. Robinson flatly states that "electronic message boards are not permitted on motor vehicles that have been manufactured to conform to Standard No. 108." However, we are willing to make an exception in those instances where school districts have concluded that, under local conditions, an electronic message board with the messages that you described would enhance the safety of school bus passengers.

We informed Mr. Sharp that "there is less possibility of impairment existing if the message visible to a following driver is related to the lamp function that occurs simultaneously." In the case of your device, "Caution-Stopping" appears simultaneously with the flashing of the amber lamps which are generally used with the stop lamps to indicate the school bus is stopping. The messages of "Stop" and "Do not Pass," appear only when the red lamps are flashing and the school bus is stopped. Thus, we do not see that the device you describe would create an impairment within the meaning of S5.1.3.

Although FMVSS No. 131 "establishes requirements for devices that can be installed on school buses to improve the safety of pedestrians in the vicinity of stopped school buses," (paragraph S1), in fact only one such device has been specified, the stop arm. You are correct that nothing in FMVSS No. 131 would prohibit the installation of your LED sign.

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Glassman
Chief Counsel

Enclosures

ref:108

d.8/2/02

ID: 24524.ztv

Open

D.W. Robertson, Captain
Commonwealth of Virginia
Department of State Police
491 Southlake Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23236

Dear Captain Robertson:

This is in reply to your letter of May 20, 2002, to Taylor Vinson of this Office, which we received on June 3. The subject of your letter was "road lamps."

Specifically, you reported that the 2001 and 2002 model year Acura CL coupes are equipped with "road lamps." You stated that "these lamps are not marked, and from my understanding do not fall under FMVSS 108. These lamps produce 5 watts of power, and the lens and reflector are not specifically focused to any point." You related that "Honda advised that these lamps are located below the headlights . . . and are used in conjunction with both the low beam and high beam headlamps . . . ."

You asked two questions: "1. Are road lamps, as described, sanctioned by FMVSS 108?," and "2. If they are not sanctioned by FMVSS 108, are they sanctioned by NHTSA in some other rule or regulation?"

The lamps you describe are not required by FMVSS No. 108. The question then arises whether lamps other than required lamps are allowed. FMVSS No. 108 permits a new vehicle to be manufactured and/or sold with supplementary lamps, subject to the prohibition imposed by S5.1.3 of the standard that "No additional lamp, reflective device, or other item of motor vehicle equipment shall be installed that impairs the effectiveness of lighting equipment required by this standard."

We have not tested Acura vehicles to judge whether additional lamps of 5 watts located below the headlamps in the front bumper, and operating in conjunction with them, will impair the effectiveness of the upper or lower beam headlamps, or of the front turn signal, parking, or hazard warning system lamps. The label that Honda affixes to each Acura CL coupe certifying that the vehicle complies with all applicable FMVSS represents, in part, its determination that the road lamps do not impair the effectiveness of other front lighting equipment within the meaning of S5.1.3. We have no basis to question that determination.

As for your second question, "road lamps" are motor vehicle equipment and subject to the agencys safety notification and remedy requirements if a safety-related defect occurs in them. Apart from regulations implementing these requirements, there are no other NHTSA regulations that pertain to auxiliary lighting equipment such as road lamps. This means that any State may regulate these lamps, and their use, as appears appropriate to the State.

If you have any further concerns, please call Taylor Vinson at 202-366-5263.

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Glassman
Chief Counsel

ref:108

d.7/29/02

ID: 2452y

Open

Mr. Kenneth E. Tompor
Auto Brokers & Leasing LTd.
4140 S. Lapeer Road (M24)
Pontiac, MI 48057

FAX: 313-373-0565

Dear Mr. Tompor:

This is in reply to your FAX of April 26, l990. You would like a statement from this agency, for purposes of litigation that commences on May 1, that a l985 Ferrari 288 GTO cannot be legally imported into the United States.

Pursuant to amendments made to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.) by P.L. 100-562, the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of l988, a motor vehicle not originally manufactured to conform to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards, cannot, subject to the exception noted below, be imported permanently into the United States on and after January 31, l990, unless the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that it is capable of being readily modified to conform to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, or that its safety features comply with or are capable of being modified to comply with all such applicable standards. The Administrator has made no determination with respect to the l985 Ferrari 288 GTO.

However, no such determination is necessary if the following criteria are met at the time of importation.

The importer's assigned place of employment was outside the United States as of October 31, l988, and (s)he has not had an assigned place of employment between that time and the entry of the motor vehicle.

The importer has not previously imported a motor vehicle into the United States before October 31, l988, that was not in compliance with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. The importer had acquired (or had entered into a binding contract to acquire) the motor vehicle before October 31, l988. The vehicle must be entered not later than October 31, l992. Only if an importer meets these criteria may (s)he at the present time legally import a nonconforming l985 Ferrari 288 GTO into the United States (subject, of course, to the obligation to bring it into compliance with the safety standards after its entry).

Sincerely,

Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel

ref:593 d:4/30/90

ID: 2453y

Open

Susan Birenbaum, Esq.
Acting General Counsel
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207

Dear Ms. Birenbaum:

This responds to several letters asking whether various products are items of motor vehicle equipment: (1) "SNAP fix-a-flat", an aerosol container of liquid latex and a highly flammable propellant of pressurized gas which can be used to temporarily seal and inflate flat tires; (2) an electric windshield de-icer and windshield scraper which can be inserted into the cigarette lighter receptacle in a motor vehicle; and (3) a bicycle rack. In response to your request regarding the de-icer and rack, we will not disclose information regarding those items to the public.

As explained in detail below, each of these three items would be considered an item of motor vehicle equipment under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (the Safety Act). In reaching these conclusions, we were cognizant of that fact that, as you noted, section 3(a)(1)(c) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 2052(a)(1)(c), excludes items of "motor vehicle equipment" from the definition of "consumer product."

Before I respond further to the substantive points in your letters, I would like to express my regret for the delay in this response. While preparing our response to your letters, we conducted an extensive review of our past interpretations regarding whether a product is an item of "motor vehicle equipment" within the meaning of the Safety Act. After that review, and in response to the issues raised in your letters, we have decided to clarify and revise our interpretation of what constitutes "motor vehicle equipment."

As you are aware, section 102(4) of the Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 1391(4), defines, in relevant part, the term "motor vehicle equipment" as:

any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured or any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of such system, part, or component or as any accessory, or addition to the motor vehicle . . . (emphasis added).

In determining whether an item of equipment is considered an "accessory . . . to the motor vehicle," NHTSA has in the past generally applied not only the relevant statutory language, but also the following two criteria: first, whether the item has no ostensible purpose other than use with a motor vehicle (e.g., a battery charger that could be used for marine batteries as well as motor vehicle batteries would not qualify) and second, whether it is intended to be used principally by ordinary users of motor vehicles (e.g., items normally used by professional vehicle repair and maintenance personnel would not qualify). In most cases, the agency concluded that a product was an item of "motor vehicle equipment" only if it met both criteria. However, in several instances, the agency found products to be items of motor vehicle equipment without an explicit finding that they satisfied the first criterion (e.g., a June 11, 1986 letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, concerning a tow strap, and an August 18, 1987 letter to Ziemke, concerning window shades).

Your recent requests have led us to review our approach to this issue. We have concluded that the first criterion stated above for determining whether a product should be regarded as an "accessory . . . to the motor vehicle" has been too restrictive. Neither the Safety Act nor its legislative history limits that category to items used exclusively in conjunction with motor vehicles. Moreover, we believe that a broader view of what comes within that term, and therefore what may be properly characterized as an item of motor vehicle equipment, is more consistent with the statutory language and with the Safety Act's purposes of enhancing motor vehicle safety.

Therefore, we have decided that a product will be deemed to satisfy the first criterion whenever a substantial portion of its expected uses are related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. We will determine the expected uses 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. We anticipate that products found to satisfy the first criterion will ordinarily, although not necessarily, be ones that are carried in a vehicle. If the product also satisfies the second criterion (which is directed to the nature of the likely users of the product), the product will be considered an "accessory" and thus be subject to the provisions of the Safety Act.

Applying these criteria to the three products about which you inquired, NHTSA has come to the following conclusions:

SNAP fix-a-flat. You explained that while this product is primarily intended for use with motor vehicles, the product's label suggests it also can be used with tires on bicycles, tractors, and off-road all-terrain-vehicles. According to your letter, all but one of the reported injuries have been sustained by a mechanic rather than the vehicle owner.

The agency considers this to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. First, although the product can be used to repair tires on bicycles and other vehicles not subject to the Safety Act, it is evident that a substantial use of the product is for the purpose of repairing motor vehicle tires. Second, based on the product's purpose as suggested by the statements on the can (e.g., "Quick and easy to use. No jacks. No tools. No tire changing." and "Keep out of reach of children"), it appears that this product was intended to be used principally by ordinary vehicle owners. The fact that mechanics have typically been the ones being injured by this product may reflect, not the fact that the primary users are mechanics, but the fact that mechanics are more likely than other users to engage in practices that lead to problems with fix-a-flat.

Bicycle rack. NHTSA considers these racks to be items of motor vehicle equipment. First, insofar as this agency is aware, bicycle racks are used exclusively in conjunction with motor vehicles. Even if bicycle racks were occasionally used on vehicles other than motor vehicles, use with motor vehicles is the primary use of these racks. Second, based on the product's function, which is to transport bicycles on motor vehicles, and their typically simple method of installation, it appears that this product was intended to be used principally by ordinary vehicle owners.

De-icer. This agency considers the de-icer to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. First, several facts indicate that it is primarily intended for use in conjunction with motor vehicles. Its plug fits a type of outlet which we believe is most commonly found in motor vehicles. While that type of outlet may be found in some boats, boats are comparatively unlikely to be used in conditions in which ice may form. Thus, we conclude that use with motor vehicles is the primary use of this product. Second, based on the product's purpose, method of installation and operation, and likely circumstancs of its use, it appears that this product was intended to be used principally by ordinary vehicle owners.

Sincerely,

Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel

/ref:VSA d:5/25/90

ID: 24545.drn

Open

    Ms. Doris Schaller-Schnedl
    Homologation Department
    Magna Steyr Engineering
    Liebenauer Hauptstrae 317.A
    8041 Graz
    AUSTRIA


    Dear Ms. Schaller-Schnedl:

    This responds to your June 7, 2002, letter asking whether the Federal motor vehicle safety standards have definitions that are similar to those of the EEC for H-point and R-Point.

      You provided the following EEC definitions of H-point and R-point:

      H-point means the pivot center of the torso and thigh of the 3 DH machine installed in the vehicle seat []. The 'H' point is located in the center of the centerline of the device which is between the 'H' point sight buttons on either side of the 3 DH machine. The 'H' point corresponds theoretically to the 'R' point.

      R-point means a design point defined by the vehicle manufacturer for each seating position and established with respect to the three-dimensional reference system.

    For purposes of our safety standards, 49 CFR 571.3, Definitions, includes a definition for "H point," but not for "R-point." However, 571.3 defines "seating reference point," which is similar in some respects to the "R-point." "H point" is defined in 571.3 as:

      the mechanically hinged hip point of a manikin which simulates the actual pivot center of the human torso and thigh, described in SAE Recommended Practice J826, "Manikins for Use in Defining Vehicle Seating Accommodations," November 1962.

      "Seating reference point" (SgRP) is defined in 571.3 as:

      the unique design H-point, as defined in SAE J1100 (June 1984), which:

      (a) Establishes the rearmost normal design driving or riding position of each designated seating position, which includes consideration of all modes of adjustment, horizontal, vertical, and tilt, in a vehicle;

      (b) Has X, Y, and Z coordinates, as defined in SAE J1100 (June 1984), established relative to the designed vehicle structure;

      (c) Simulates the position of the pivot center of the human torso and thigh; and

      (d) Is the reference point employed to position the two-dimensional drafting template with the 95th percentile leg described in SAE J826 (May 1987), or, if the drafting template with the 95th percentile leg cannot be positioned in the seating position, is located with the seat in its most rearward adjustment position.

    The H point and mostly SgRP are used in the test procedures of a number of NHTSA standards. They include: Standard No. 104, Windshield wiping and washing systems; Standard No. 201, Occupant protection in interior impact; Standard No. 202, Head restraints; Standard No. 207, Seating systems; Standard No. 208, Occupant crash protection; Standard No. 210, Seat belt assembly anchorages; Standard No. 213, Child restraint systems; and Standard No. 214, Side impact protection.

    For your information, we have enclosed a copy of a January 9, 2002, letter to Mr. Mike J. Gower of Trico Products (Europe) Ltd., which discusses a 1993 rulemaking that replaced a reference to "manikin H point with seat in rearmost position" in Standard No. 104 with a reference to "seating reference point."

    You also ask whether there is a requirement in the safety standards similar to that in the European Standards that, "the H-point has to lie within a certain distance from the R-point. (Square of 50 mm, 74/60/EEC)." While it is difficult to find a directly comparable requirement in the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) cited above, we believe Standard No. 208 comes close to it in the requirement of the "H" point location when positioning the 50th percentile dummy. You can find further details on the use of the "H" point and the "SgRP" in the FMVSSs by referring to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 49 CFR Part 571. Those without a hard copy of the CFR may access them in electronic form at www.access.gpo.gov/nara.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you need further assistance, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    Enclosure
    ref:571
    d.8/20/02

ID: 24547_Q'Straint_vest

Open

    Jean Marc Girardin, President
    Q-Straint
    5553 Ravenswood
    Building 104
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312

    Dear Mr. Girardin:

    This responds to your letter concerning the Q-Vest, a vest for use on school buses. I apologize for the delay in responding. You state that Athe Q-Vest incorporates a y-belt that is secured around the seats loading bar, at the base of the seat." You ask how we interpret S5.3.1 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, as applied to your product.

    By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, manufacturers are required to ensure that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable requirements. The following represents our opinion based on the facts you provided in your letter, and addresses some or all of the specific issues you raised as necessary to render this interpretation. If we have not addressed an issue, you should not assume that we have concurred with a position you have expressed on that issue. Likewise, this interpretation may not discuss every requirement of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards that might apply to your product. It is your responsibility as a manufacturer to determine the requirements that apply and certify the compliance of your product with those requirements. NHTSA determines the compliance of products with the safety standards in the context of an agency enforcement proceeding.

    The QStraint is a device that is designed to restrain children in school buses. It is thus a "child restraint system" subject to the requirements of Standard No. 213. (See definition of "child restraint system" in S4 of Standard No. 213.)

    As you know from telephone conversations with Deirdre Fujita of my staff, the agency recently amended S5.3.1 of Standard No. 213 (October 22, 2002, 67 FR 64818). Effective October 22, 2002, S5.3.1 states, in pertinent part:

    S5.3.1 Add-on child restraints shall meet either (a) or (b), as appropriate.

      (a) Except for components designed to attach to a child restraint anchorage system, each add-on child restraint system must not have any means designed for attaching the system to a vehicle seat cushion or vehicle seat back and any component (except belts) that is designed to be inserted between the vehicle seat cushion and vehicle seat back. Harnesses manufactured before February 1, 2003, that are manufactured for use on school bus seats are excluded from S5.3.1(a).

      (b)  Harnesses manufactured on or after February 1, 2003, but before December 1, 2003, for use on school bus seats must meet S5.3.1(a) of this standard, unless a label that conforms in content to Figure 12 and to the requirements of S5.3.1(b)(1) through S5.3.1(b)(3) of this standard is permanently affixed to the part of the harness that attaches the system to a vehicle seat back. Harnesses that are not labeled as required by this paragraph must meet S5.3.1(a).

      * * *

    The issue posed by your letter is whether the QStraint vest[1] has a "means designed for attaching the system to a vehicle seat back." If it does, the vest cannot be manufactured after January 31, 2003, unless it has the label specified in S5.3.1(b) of the standard.

    We believe that it does. The instructions you provided for the QStraint indicate that the y-belt is routed over and around the seat back to attach to a bar at the bottom of the seat cushion. From your instructions, it appears that routing the y-belt this way attaches the restraint system to the vehicle seat and provides upper torso restraint to the child.

    In our view, routing the y-belt in this manner constitutes attaching the system to the vehicle seat back. We interpret S5.3.1 to include any means that uses the vehicle seat back in whole or in part to attach the child restraint to the vehicle. The y-belt attaches to a bar that is part of the seat structure and wraps around the seat back to hold the system to the vehicle seat. Because the y-belt uses the vehicle seat back to attach the system to the vehicle seat, it is a means designed for attaching to a vehicle seat back.

    The enclosed copy of the agencys October 22, 2002, Interim Final Rule explains that NHTSA has determined that a need exists to permit the limited manufacture and sale of vests that attach to school bus seats. However, such vests manufactured on or after February 1, 2003, must bear a specific warning label informing users that the vest must be used only on school bus seats and that the seats directly behind the child wearing the seat-mounted vest must be either unoccupied or occupied by restrained passengers. After reviewing the public comments on the Interim Final Rule, NHTSA will decide whether to issue a final rule amending the standard on a permanent basis.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Fujita at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    Enclosure
    ref:213
    d.11/26/02





    [1] We consider the terms "vest" and "harness" to be interchangeable.

ID: 24548.ztv

Open

Kenneth M. Bush, Regulations Manager
Government Regulations Department
American Suzuki Motor Corporation
3521 East Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92822-1100

Dear Mr. Bush:

This is in reply to your letter of May 30, 2002, asking whether a motorcycle headlamp design you are contemplating "complies with the requirements of S7.9.6.2(a)" of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108.

The Suzuki design is a single headlamp with two light sources mounted on the vertical centerline. The upper light source incorporates both an upper and a lower beam filament. The lower light source "has only a single filament." You are considering two illumination methods.

In the first method, the lower light source is activated whenever the upper light source is activated on either the upper or lower beam filament. In the second method, the lower light source would be activated with the upper light source upper beam, but the lower beam would be provided only by the lower light source.

S7.9.6.2(a) specifies that a motorcycle headlamp system consisting of a single headlamp shall be mounted on the vertical centerline. If the headlamp contains more than one light source, each light source shall be mounted on the vertical centerline with the upper beam no higher than the lower beam. You believe that the first method meets S7.9.6.2(a) because"both light sources are illuminated for both high beam and low beam operation." We concur with your interpretation because the single upper light source contains both an upper and lower beam filament.

You ask whether the second illumination method also complies. In this case, only the lower light source provides the lower beam. Thus, the upper beam light source is higher than the sole light source providing the lower beam, and this design would not comply with S7.9.6.2(a).

If you have any questions, you may phone Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Glassman
Chief Counsel

ref:108

d.8/1/02

Request an Interpretation

You may email your request to Interpretations.NHTSA@dot.gov or send your request in hard copy to:

The Chief Counsel
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, W41-326
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

If you want to talk to someone at NHTSA about what a request for interpretation should include, call the Office of the Chief Counsel at 202-366-2992.

Please note that NHTSA’s response will be made available in this online database, and that the incoming interpretation request may also be made publicly available.