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NHTSA Interpretation File Search


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.


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).


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 51 - 60 of 16495
Interpretations Date

ID: 005048crowellpolicebarrier-df


    Mr. Steven Crowell
    P.O. Box 303
    Eastham, MA 02642-0303

    Dear Mr. Crowell:

    This responds to your letter concerning the permissibility of installing partitions between the front and rear seats in police vehicles. You ask whether installing a steel safety cage would be considered a violation of the "make inoperative" provision of 30122 of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.). From our records of interpretations we have issued in the past, we see that you are familiar with this agencys requirements and have inquired into this area before. (NHTSA wrote you about this subject on September 13, 1985. A copy of our previous letter to you is enclosed.)

    Our basic requirements have not significantly changed since our earlier letter to you. The "render inoperative" provision of 15 U.S.C. 108(a)(2)(A) was recodified as 49 U.S.C. 30122, but no substantive change was made to the provision. As explained in our earlier letter, the entities listed in 30122 must not knowingly make inoperative the compliance of vehicles with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard. The make inoperative provision does not apply to individual owners who modify their own vehicles. Thus, a police department may modify its own vehicles without regard to 30101. As a general matter, NHTSA encourages vehicle owners not to alter their vehicles in a manner that degrades the overall safety of the vehicle.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact us.


    Stephen P. Wood
    Acting Chief Counsel


ID: 005340drn


    Mr. Robert L. Douglas
    Director of Product Integrity
    IC Corporation
    751 South Harkrider
    Conway, AR 72032

    Dear Mr. Douglas:

    This responds to your request for an interpretation of whether an "aluminum extrusion" to be used to mount the upper longitudinal edge of the light bar is excluded from the definition of "body panel joint" as set forth in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 221, School Bus Body Joint Strength. Our answer is yes.

    Standard No. 221 requires, among other things, that each body panel joint, when tested in accordance with the procedure of S6, shall hold the body panel to the member to which it is joined when subjected to a force of 60 percent of the tensile strength of the weakest joined body panel determined pursuant to S6.2 (S5.1). Standard No. 221 defines "body panel joint" as:

    the area of contact or close proximity between the edges of a body panel and another body component, including but not limited to floor panels, and body panels made of composite materials such as plastic or plywood, excluding trim and decorative parts which do not contribute to the strength of the bus body, members such as rub rails which are entirely outside of body panels, ventilation panels, components provided for functional purposes, and engine access covers.

    You state that your company is considering changing the method of mounting the upper longitudinal edge of a light bar. You will be replacing screws with an aluminum extrusion to insert and retain the upper longitudinal edge of the light bar. The aluminum extrusion will be attached to the roof inner liner with screws.

    Our opinion is that the aluminum extrusion is a "trim" part and thus is excluded from FMVSS No. 221. The extrusion is similar to the plastic wire trim parts that NHTSA, in an August 31, 2000, letter to Mr. Thomas Turner, determined were trim. The aluminum extrusion does not contribute to the structural integrity or joint strength of the bus. As a manufacturer, however, it is your responsibility to secure the extrusion in such a manner that it is not likely to come unattached and cause injuries in a crash.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


ID: 005431rls


Mr. Romolo Gazza

Fair S.rl.

Strada della Cisa, 249/251

142040 Sorbolo Levante Brescello (RE)


Dear Mr. Gazza:

This responds to your inquiry to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), asking whether your ISOFIX platform plus CRS can be approved to FMVSS 213 with or without the vehicle. We understand your question to be in two parts: whether your child restraint system (CRS) alone would meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213; and whether your system would meet the requirements when installed in a vehicle (you specifically asked about a Ferrari F430). Based on the information you provided the agency and the analysis below, Ive concluded that your CRS would not comply in either situation. This response will consider your questions in turn.

By way of background, NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. The United States does not use a certification process such as that of the European Economic Community, in which a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment is required to deliver the equipment to be certified to a governmental agency for testing and approval. Instead, in the United States, under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 (the Vehicle Safety Act), 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 by examining and testing representative samples of some motor vehicles and equipment. When the products do not comply with the safety standards, the manufacturer must recall the product, or NHTSA may conduct an enforcement proceeding to ensure that that occurs. The following represents our opinion based on the information you provided with your letter. This interpretation might not discuss every requirement of the FMVSSs that might apply to your product. If we have not addressed an issue, you should not assume that we have concurred with a position you have expressed on that issue.

Would Your ISOFIX CRS Meet The Requirements of Standard No. 213?


Our answer is no. The informational materials you provided describe your universal CRS as consisting of a variety of child seats and boosters which may be secured to the vehicle either with an ISOFIX platform or with the vehicles safety belts. S5.3.2 of
Standard No. 213 requires all add-on child restraint systems to be capable of meeting the requirements of the standard when installed by each of three different means. A CRS must be able to meet the requirements of the standard when secured solely by each of the following means, as applicable for the particular type of child restraint system: (1) a Type 1 seat belt assembly; (2) a Type 1 seat belt assembly plus a tether anchorage, if needed; and (3) a child restraint anchorage system, also known as LATCH[1], specified by FMVSS No. 225.

S5.9(a) of Standard No. 213 requires child restraint systems of the type you manufacture to have components permanently attached to the CRS that enable the CRS to be securely fastened to the lower anchorages of a LATCH system. It appears that your ISOFIX platform could be fastened to the lower anchorages of the LATCH system with the insertion guides.[2] However the CRS design does not meet the requirements of Standard No. 213 because the child restraint has no permanently-attached components that enable it to be securely fastened to the lower anchorages of the LATCH system. The CRS is designed to attach to the ISOFIX platform, but the components needed to attach to the LATCH system are not permanently attached to the CRS. Because your CRS would not meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 213, the sale or importation of the CRS into this country would be prohibited by the Vehicle Safety Act.

Would Your CRS Installed as Described in a Ferrari F430 Meet The Requirements of Standard No. 213?


Your letter asked whether the requirements of Standard No. 213 would be met by an ISOFIX CRS with CPOD, which you said that Ferrari plans to offer in its U.S.-sold F430 vehicles. We believe that CPOD refers to a sensor system in the right-front passenger seat of the vehicle which is designed to restrict air bag deployment in the presence of a CRS. Our answer provided to your first question would not change, regardless if the CRS were sold together with a vehicle.

We note that new passenger cars are required to meet a comprehensive set of FMVSSs, including the advanced air bag requirements of FMVSS No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection. Those requirements provide manufacturers several compliance options in order to minimize the risk to infants and small children from deploying air bags, including an option to suppress an air bag in the presence of a CRS. NHTSA tests an air bag suppression system for compliance using the CRSs specified in Appendix A of the standard (S19, S21 and S23 of FMVSS No. 208). If you would like further information about FMVSS No. 208 requirements, please contact us.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Schade of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel



[1] LATCH is a term used by industry and retail groups referring to the child restraint anchorage system required by Standard No. 225 (defined in S3 of Standard No. 225). LATCH stands for Lower Anchorages and Tethers for Children. For convenience, we will use the term in this letter.

[2] Depicted on page 7 of your Instructions for Use booklet included among the materials you sent to the agency.

ID: 005493drn


    Mr. D. R. Smith
    American Tire Distributors
    12200 Herbert Wayne Court
    Suite 150
    P.O. Box 3145
    Huntersville, NC 28070-3145

    Dear Mr. Smith:

    This responds to your July 14, 2003, request for information whether Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 211, Wheel Nuts, Wheel Discs, and Hub Caps is still in effect. The answer is no.

    In a Federal Register notice of May 6, 1996, (61 FR 20172, copy enclosed) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rescinded FMVSS No. 211. The rescission took effect on June 5, 1996.

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


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


ID: 00563Vancamp_positioningbelt


    Sgt. Sharron VanCampen
    Commander, School Bus Inspection Unit
    Michigan State Police, Motor Carrier Division
    4000 Collins Road
    Lansing, MI 48909

    Dear Sgt. VanCampen:

    This responds to your e-mail to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and telephone call to Deirdre Fujita of my staff, concerning the application of Federal motor vehicle safety standards[1] to the installation of "positioning belts" on large (over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating) school buses. We apologize for the delay in responding.

    You state that positioning belts are seat belts certified as meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 209 that are sold for use on a school bus seat to transport children with special needs that require additional restraint to ensure that the children remain seated. According to your e-mail, some school bus operators are attaching the belts by looping them around school bus seat structures that were not manufactured for seat belt installation.

    You ask several questions about the positioning devices, which are answered below. I note that we have also received a related letter from Mr. Howard Dashney, Executive Director of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), asking about MAPTs members use of the positioning devices on school buses. Because your inquiries ask about the same situation, we will respond to you both simultaneously and will copy you both on our responses.

    Your questions are answered below.

    Question: "These devices are being marketed for pelvic restraint and as such, are they required to meet all of the requirements in FMVSS No. 209? If these devices are considered lap belts per FMVSS No. 209, are they required to meet the attachment hardware requirement at S5.2(c) and thus use a bolt to attach to the seat belt loading bar on a seat belt-ready school bus seat?"

    Answer: According to available information, the belts are in fact certified as meeting the requirements of FMVSS No. 209. Presumably, because they are certified as meeting that standard, the belts were sold with the attachment hardware required by FMVSS No. 209. It appears that your underlying question is whether the belts are required by FMVSS No. 209 to be attached in a specific way, including by use of a bolt, etc. As explained below, generally the answer is no.

    The installation of the belts on used vehicles is not directly regulated by an FMVSS. Safety standards that apply to installation of seat belts, FMVSS No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, and FMVSS No. 210, Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages, are "vehicle standards" applying only to new vehicles. The general rule is that installation of aftermarket equipment is not subject to the requirements set forth in vehicle standards.

    However, there is another statutory provision that might affect MAPT members installation of the belts. If a vehicle is modified after its first sale, 49 U.S.C. 30122 provides, in pertinent part:

      A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard.

    School buses are certified as meeting Federal school bus safety standards. Seats on a large school bus are certified to the "compartmentalization" requirements of FMVSS No. 222, School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection. The compartmentalization concept calls for sturdy yet yielding well-padded high-backed seats to protect passengers. With respect to Standard No. 222, the compartmentalized school bus seats are elements of design installed in compliance with this safety standard. The "make inoperative" prohibition requires any entity listed in 30122 to ensure that the school buses will continue to afford the occupant protection required by Standard No. 222, even with the positioning belts attached to them.

    Note, however, that the make inoperative prohibition does not apply to modifications vehicle owners make to their own vehicles. Thus, Federal law would not apply to a situation where MAPT members installed the belts in their own vehicles, even if the installation were to result in the vehicle no longer complying with the safety standards. Nonetheless, NHTSA urges owners to exercise care in modifying their vehicles so as not to degrade the safety provided by the original systems. Further, States have the authority to regulate the use of motor vehicles, including the manner in which school buses are modified and operated.

    Question: "If this is correct [and the answer to question number 2 is yes], is it appropriate for Michigan to require that seat belt anchorages in school buses over 10,000 gross vehicle weight meet the strength requirements found in FMVSS No. 210?"

    Answer: The answer to the preceding question is that seat belts are not required by our standards to be installed on used vehicles pursuant to the lap belt installation instructions accompanying the belts. However, because the FMVSSs do not specify requirements for seat belts for passengers on large school buses, each State has the authority to specify requirements for the installation of the belts. The belts act similarly to lap belts in a crash. NHTSA recommends that lap belts should be installed only on "seat belt ready" school bus seats (seats that are able to withstand the forces generated in a crash), and also in a manner that meets FMVSS No. 210.

    If you have further questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Fujita at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


    [1] As explained by Ms. Fujita, we can only interpret our requirements and cannot interpret the requirements of other Federal agencies. As to compliance with Head Start or other Federal regulations, you should direct your question to the agency involved.

ID: 005738rbm


    Mr. Paul Schockmel
    Marketing Manager
    International Electronics and Engineering S.A.
    Zone Industrielle Findel
    2b, route de Treves
    L-2632 Luxembourg

    Dear Mr. Schmockmel:

    This responds to your letter requesting an interpretation of the advanced air bag requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, Occupant crash protection (FMVSS No. 208). On May 12, 2000, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a final rule in the Federal Register (65 FR 30680) requiring advanced air bags in all passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, light trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 lb or less. The phase-in for these new requirements begins September 1, 2003. That final rule established new, advanced air bag performance requirements to minimize the risk of injury to children, as well as new requirements to enhance protection of small and mid-size adults. The requirements in S19, S21, and S23 are designed to minimize the risk that air bags pose to infants and small children. S19 provides manufacturers with two different options for complying with the standard (low risk deployment or automatic suppression), while S21 and S23 provide three options (low risk deployment, automatic suppression, or dynamic automatic suppression). Your questions are related to the interplay between the infant low risk deployment option and the infant automatic suppression option, particularly in light of the absence of a dynamic automatic suppression option for infants. I am pleased to provide a response.

    You first request an interpretation of the requirement set forth in S19, and the test procedure provided in S20.4, relating to the low risk deployment option for infants. Specifically, you ask whether a system that is certified to the low risk deployment option for infants can suppress the air bag when the applicable child restraint is in the rear-facing mode, and either suppress or deploy when the restraint is placed in the forward-facing mode. The answer to the first part of this question is no. Under the low risk deployment option, one or more stages of the air bag must deploy when the restraint is rear-facing. The answer to the second part of your question is yes. If a system is certified to the low risk deployment option for infants, we will deploy the air bag as specified in S20.4. Thus, injury measurements are only recorded when the child restraint is in the rear-facing mode.

    The requirements for the infant low risk deployment option are found at S19.3, which states that "each vehicle shall meet the injury criteria specified in S19.4 of this standard when the passenger air bag is deployed in accordance with the procedures specified in S20.4." The low risk deployment option is designed to address injuries that can result when an infant is very close to the air bag.

    S20.4 specifies several conditions for testing the deploying air bag. First, the manufacturer must assure compliance to S19.3 using any child restraint listed in subparts B and C of Appendix A to the standard. For purposes of S19.3, the air bag is only tested with the child restraints in their rear-facing condition. Under the specified test conditions, the vehicle seat is moved as far forward as possible, while avoiding contact with the vehicle interior. This is done to ensure that the dummy's head is placed as close to the deploying air bag as possible. The air bag is only tested with the child restraint in a belted condition.

    The air bag is deployed at whatever level of force and combination of stages that would deploy in any rigid barrier crash up to 64 km/h (40 mph) when a test dummy is positioned in a restraint as specified in the test procedure, except that the vehicle seat may be at any seat track position. This level is determined by running an indicant test, as described in S20.4.9, at impact speeds up to 40 mph with a dummy-occupied restraint installed in the passenger seat.

    When NHTSA runs a compliance test on a vehicle certified to S19.3, it will only deploy the air bag at the level and, if equipped with a multi-stage inflator, with the combination of stages, that would deploy in the specified indicant test. Manufacturers may not use suppression technology to ensure that there will be no air bag deployment in the indicant test if they are certifying to the low risk deployment option.

    Your second question relates to the absence of a dynamic automatic suppression option in S19. Specifically, you ask whether a manufacturer may use a system whereby the air bag is suppressed in all but the forward-facing mode, where a benign deployment strategy would be used. This option is not currently allowed under S19. This is because such a system would not meet either the low risk deployment option or the automatic suppression option. Should the agency add a third, dynamic suppression option to S19, such a compliance strategy would be allowed as long as all the criteria of that option were met in full.

    I hope this letter addresses your concerns. Please feel free to contact Rebecca MacPherson of my staff at (202) 366-2992 should you have any additional questions.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


ID: 005890Campbelllabel


Mr. David E. Campbell
David Campbell & Associates, Inc.
PO Box 402
Westfield Center, OH  44251-0402

Dear Mr. Campbell:

This responds to your e-mail to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance and your follow-up phone conversation with Mr. Chris Calamita of my staff. You inquired as to whether your client may make certain modifications to the warning label text required under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child restraint systems. As explained below, one but not all of the modifications you suggest is permitted.

For a belt-positioning booster seat such as that manufactured by your client, S5.5.2(g) of FMVSS No. 213 requires the statement:

  • Use only the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt system when restraining the child in this booster seat

to be followed directly by the statement:

  • Secure this child restraint with a vehicle belt.

You expressed concern that listing the statements as required on a belt-positioning booster seat could be confusing. You then proposed a single bullet point to replace the two listed above, which would read as follows:

Secure child in this child restraint with a vehicle lap and shoulder belt as specified in the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.

You stated that you believe that the proposed statement avoids any confusion about how a child should be secured.

We agree that a belt-positioning booster seat is weighted down by the child occupant and that the booster is not secured directly to the vehicle with the vehicle’s belt system. The warning statement, “Secure this child restraint with a vehicle belt” is thus not appropriate for a belt-positioning booster. As such, manufacturers of belt-positioning booster do not need to include the phrase in the labeling. Further, we intend to address this issue in future rulemaking.

However, we do not agree that your replacement language would be an acceptable alternative. S5.5 of Standard 213 requires child restraints to be permanently labeled with certain information, including specific statements provided in quotations in the standard. The agency’s longstanding position is that the wording on child restraint labels must be as specified in S5.5, with very limited exceptions. We have permitted certain minor variations that clarified text and did not make any substantive change to the meaning of the warning specified for the label. (See e.g., Letter to Ford Motor Company, changing “instructions” to the “instruction” to clarify that a restraint had only a single instruction for a particular feature. December 18, 1980; copy enclosed.) However, we generally have taken a strict view that the wording required by FMVSS No. 213 may not be altered.

The rewording you have suggested is not a minor clarification, and in fact, may potentially lead to confusion. Your label instructs the consumer to refer to “the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions” to determine how a child should be properly secured in the child restraint. However, vehicle manufacturers are not required under the Federal standards to provide information on the proper installation of a child in a child restraint. It is the child restraint manufacturer that is required to provide instructions on how to properly restrain a child in its restraint systems. For the reasons stated above, the labeling alternative you suggest is not acceptable.

If you have any further questions, please call Mr. Calamita of my staff at (202) 366-0536.


Jacqueline Glassman

Chief Counsel




ID: 006239



Torbjrn Waerme

Immeuble Atria

2, rue du Centre

93 051 Noisy Le Grand


Dear Mr. Waerme:

This responds to your e-mail request for an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials. You ask whether cables and electrical harnesses under the front passenger/driver seat are to be tested regarding flammability. Based on the information you provided to the agency and the analysis below, our answer, which is limited to the specific situation you present, is yes.

By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and 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. This letter interprets FMVSS No. 302 based on our understanding of the information you have provided.

You explain that the seat cushion and seat back have electronics built into the foam. You state: In this specific case electronics are built in to the foam cushion/back and harnesses [containing four cables] are exiting the cushion/back foam. These harnesses will be attached under the seat, sometimes close to the metallic frame supporting the foams. You ask about cable harnesses that come out of (exit) the seat cushion and seat back and that connect to an electronic application under the seat.

Section 4.1 of FMVSS No. 302 lists the components in the vehicle occupant compartment that must comply with the flammability resistance requirements of S4.3. The listed components are: seat cushions, seat backs, seat belts, headlining, convertible

tops, arm rests, all trim panels including door, front, rear, and side panels, compartment shelves, head restraints, floor coverings, sun visors, curtains, shades, wheel housing covers, engine compartment covers, mattress covers, and any other interior materials, including padding and crash-deployed elements, that are designed to absorb energy on contact by occupants in the event of a crash. Our longstanding interpretations of FMVSS No. 302 have stated that materials incorporated into components that are listed in S4.1 are subject to the standard. Examples of incorporated components include an air bladder that is attached to a mattress cover, July 3, 1997 letter to Mr. Dean Knapp; an instruction sleeve that is attached as a permanent part of a sun visor, August 31, 1973 letter to Ms. Dianne Black; material intimately joined with a listed material, October 11, 1972 letter to Mr. David Humphreys. (Copies of the letters are enclosed.)

Seat cushions and seat backs are listed in S4.1. The cable harness you described is incorporated into the seat cushion and seat back. It does not matter that the harness itself is outside of the cushion or seat back because the harness is permanently attached to the seat cushion or seat back by way of the electronic cables that constitute an integral part of the seat. Because the harness is incorporated into the seat cushion or seat back, it is subject to the flammability resistance requirements of FMVSS No. 302.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have other questions, please contact

Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at 202-366-2992.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel




ID: 006307drn


    The Honorable Sue Myrick
    U.S. House of Representatives
    319 South Street, Suite B
    Gastonia, NC 29052

    Dear Representative Myrick:

    Thank you for your letter of August 15, 2003, requesting information on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Keith Smith, of the First United Methodist Church in Gastonia. Mr. Smith is concerned about the 15-passenger vans used by the church and wishes to know if there is a "government policy" that 15-passenger vans "will be considered unsafe unless the last 2 back seats are removed from the van." As explained below, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor any other Federal agency has found 15-passenger vans to be "unsafe," regardless of whether seats are removed from the vans.

    By way of background, NHTSA is authorized to issue and enforce Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles. Our statute at 49 U.S.C. '30112 requires any person selling or leasing a new vehicle to sell or lease a vehicle that meets all applicable FMVSSs. By NHTSAs definition, 15-passenger vans are "buses" - motor vehicles "with motive power, except a trailer, designed for carrying more than 10 persons." Thus, all 15-passenger vans must meet NHTSAs FMVSSs applicable to buses.

    Although the vehicles are not considered "unsafe," the way some 15-passenger vans may be driven may subject occupants to an increased risk of rollover crashes. On April 15, 2002, NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., reissued a cautionary warning to 15-passenger van users because of an increased rollover risk under certain conditions. NHTSA research has shown that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to more than ten. In fact, 15-passenger vans (with 10 or more occupants) had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that is nearly three times the rate of those that were lightly loaded.

    Dr. Runge advised 15-passenger van users to be aware of the following safety precautions in order to significantly reduce the rollover risk:

    • It is important that 15-passenger vans be operated by trained, experienced drivers.

    • All occupants must wear seat belts at all times. Eighty percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide in the year 2000 were not buckled up. Wearing seat belts dramatically increases the chances of survival during a rollover crash. In fatal, single-vehicle rollovers involving 15-passenger vans over the past decade, 92 percent of belted occupants survived.

    I am enclosing copies of the consumer advisory, a NHTSA study on "The Rollover Propensity of Fifteen-Passenger Vans," and a flyer, "Reducing the Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans."

    Because the Federal motor vehicle safety standards apply only to manufacturers and sellers of new motor vehicles, we do not regulate how a church must transport its congregation. However, each State has the authority to set its own standards regarding the use of motor vehicles, including 15-passenger vans. For this reason, North Carolina law should be consulted to see if there are regulations about how children or adult members of a church must be transported.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you or Mr. Smith have any further questions about 15-passenger vans safety or about NHTSA's programs, please feel free to contact me at this address or at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


ID: 006341drn-2


    Mr. Thomas V. Kazyaka
    Chief Executive Officer
    T.V.K. Industries, Inc.
    P. O. Box 1161
    Gualala, CA 95445

    Dear Mr. Kazyaka:

    This responds to your letter to Dr. Raymond P. Owings, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations, Associate Administrator for Advanced Research and Analysis, expressing the view that manual transmission shift levers "may be required to be backlit and possibly display the gear engaged" in order to comply with S3.2 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 102, Transmission shift lever sequence, starter interlock, and transmission braking effect. Because your letter seeks a legal interpretation, I am responding on Dr. Owings behalf. As explained below, S3.2 of FMVSS No. 102 does not require manual transmission shift levers to identify the gear engaged or have backlighting.

    S3.2 of FMVSS No. 102 specifies the following requirements for vehicles with manual transmissions:

    Manual transmissions. Identification of the shift lever pattern of manual transmissions, except three forward speed manual transmissions having the standard "H" pattern, shall be displayed in view of the driver at all times when a driver is present in the drivers seating position.

    While this paragraph requires identification of the shift lever pattern of manual transmissions, it neither requires identification of the gear engaged nor backlighting.

    I also note that no other FMVSS requires vehicles with only manual transmission shift levers to identify the gear engaged or to have backlighting.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


Request an Interpretation

You may email your request to 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.