C. Scott Talbot, Esq.
Howrey & Simon
1299 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 2004-2402

Dear Mr. Talbot:

This responds to your letter asking about S5.1.1(b)(1) of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, "Child Restraint Systems."

S5.1.1(b)(1) states, in pertinent part:

If adjustable to different positions, [a child restraint must] remain in the same adjustment position during [dynamic] testing that it was in immediately before the testing, . . . .

You state that your client is developing a belt-positioning seat that has an adjustable device that will allow a parent "to orient the vehicle shoulder belt to the child's shoulder." You explain that the device allows "a 'fine tuning' ability to position the belt exactly on the child's shoulder" and permits the belt to be readjusted as the child grows. You state, however, that the device may move in the standard's dynamic test, and ask whether this movement is permitted under S5.1.1(b)(1).

Our answer is that the movement is permitted. In the final rule adopting the requirement (44 FR 72131, December 13, 1979), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that its intent is to prevent a child's fingers or limbs from being caught between the "shifting parts" of the restraint, and prevent a child's submarining during a crash (where the child's body slides too far forward and downward, legs first). 44 FR at 72132. The agency also stated in the rule that the requirement would prevent injuries to children's hands or fingers "caught between the structural elements of the restraint as it changes position." 44 FR at 72133, emphasis added. In view of these statements, we conclude that S5.1.1(b)(1) is intended to prevent injuries caused by the repositioning of the seating surface of the restraint (i.e., the reclining feature), and thus does not prohibit movement of the vehicle belt adjuster on the child restraint.

Please contact us at (202) 366-2992 if you have other questions.


John Womack

Acting Chief Counsel