Lt. Sharon Douglas

Chemung County Sheriff’s Office

203 William St.

Elmira, NY  14901

 

Dear Lt. Douglas:

 

This responds to your September 5, 2017 letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and to your December 5 telephone conversation with Deirdre Fujita of my staff, regarding a product called a “Little Passenger Seat” made by a company called Little Passenger Seats (LPS).  You are concerned about the safety of the product and ask whether it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems.

 

While answering your letter, on December 18, 2017, our staff read on what had been LPS’s website that LPS was “closing up shop as a result of serious financial problems.”[1]  Notwithstanding this development, we are answering your letter since it raises important issues about child passenger safety.

 

As explained below, based on our understanding of your letter and other information, we believe that the Little Passenger Seat is a “built-in child restraint system” subject to FMVSS No. 213.  Further, based on available information, the product does not appear to satisfy all the requirements of the standard. 

 

Background

 

You explain in your letter that you observed two children, ages 4 and 6, sitting on “a rear facing bench seat in the cargo area of a 2017 Jeep Wrangler…but no booster or child seat supplementing the seat.”  You state that the driver of the Wrangler indicated that “the bench seat was in fact a child restraint system that he had purchased [in the] aftermarket,” and that “the seat is manufactured in accordance with the build of children in mind.”  You state that you later saw on the product’s website[2] that LPS stated that the seat met requirements of several FMVSS but did not make any reference to FMVSS No. 213. 

 

From the photos you sent of the LPS products, and from what our staff saw of the website when it was live, the company was selling aftermarket one-, two-, and three-passenger seats.  The one-passenger seat was shown side-facing and rear-facing, with a three-point belt system (lap and shoulder belt).  The two- and three-passenger seats were on a bench seat that was rear-facing.[3]  There were three-point belts on the outboard positions of the bench, and a lap belt in the center position.  There were statements on the website that the seats were meant to be installed in the “cargo space,” and that, “The Federal Safety Standards we tested for were for regular car seats, not child seats.” 

 

Answer

 

The FMVSSs that apply to seats differ depending on when the seat is installed, and for whom it is sold.

 

A seat intended for general occupancy (i.e., not for children specifically) that is installed as original equipment (installed in a new vehicle prior to the first purchase of the vehicle other than for resale) must meet, or has a critical role in the vehicle meeting, a number of safety standards, including: FMVSS No. 207, Seating Systems, FMVSS No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, FMVSS No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, FMVSS No. 210, Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages, and FMVSS No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials.[4]  However, except for FMVSS No. 209 (which is an “equipment” standard applying to new items of equipment), these standards are “vehicle” standards that apply to new, complete vehicles and the systems in those new vehicles, and not to individual items of equipment sold separately from the vehicle, like a new bench seat sold for installation in a used vehicle.  Thus, only FMVSS No. 209 applies to such new aftermarket seats, assuming there are seat belt assemblies on the seat.[5] 

 

The situation is different, however, for new aftermarket seats intended for children, like the Little Passenger Seat.  New aftermarket seats intended for children are subject to FMVSS No. 213.

 

FMVSS No. 213 (section S4) defines a child restraint system (CRS) as: “any device, except Type I or Type II seat belts, designed for use in a motor vehicle or aircraft to restrain, seat, or position children who weigh 36 kilograms (kg) (80 lb) or less.”  FMVSS No. 213 applies to both “add-on” (portable) and “built-in” CRSs.  A built-in CRS is “a child restraint system that is designed to be an integral part of and permanently installed in a motor vehicle” (see S4).  NHTSA intended the definition to include new built-in CRSs sold for installation in new and used vehicles.[6] 

 

After reviewing the available material on the Little Passenger Seat, we believe that the product is a “child restraint system.”  The seat is a device intended for use in motor vehicles to “restrain” and “seat” children who weigh 36 kg (80 lb) or less, as evidenced by the materials

and the manufacturer’s statements that the product is intended for children.[7]  Further, the product is a “built-in child restraint system,” since it is a child restraint system designed to be an integral part of and permanently installed in a motor vehicle. 

 

FMVSS No. 213 applies to all new child restraint systems sold in this country.  For built-in CRSs, FMVSS No. 213 specifies performance requirements that must be met when the CRS is tested with a test dummy in a 48-kilometers per hour (km/h) (30 miles per hour) (mph) dynamic test.[8]  Among other things, in the 48 km/h (30 mph) test, an aftermarket built-in CRS must meet structural integrity requirements to reduce the likelihood that a child will be injured by a collapse or disintegration of the CRS, injury criteria to limit the accelerations imparted to a child’s head and chest, and excursion requirements so the child is retained in the system. 

 

FMVSS No. 213 also requires aftermarket built-in CRSs to be labeled with safety information (S5.5.4), and for manufacturers to provide consumer information to the owner (S5.6.2), including the types of vehicles and the seating positions into which the restraint can or cannot be installed (S5.6.2.4).  There are also requirements (S5.4.3.3) that child restraints provide specified upper torso, lower torso, and pelvic restraints.

 

It does not appear that LPS certified the Little Passenger Seat as meeting FMVSS No. 213.  This is indicated by LPS’s statement on its website that “The Federal Safety Standards we tested for were for regular car seats, not child seats,” and by the absence of any mention of FMVSS No. 213 on the website.  The photos of the seats did not show the labeling and other features required by the standard. 

 

We appreciate your bringing this product to our attention.  NHTSA’s Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance will be contacting LPS for information about the product, the conformance of the seats with FMVSS No. 213 and other matters.   

 


 

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Fujita at 202-366-2992.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

                                                                        Jonathan Morrison

                                                                        Chief Counsel

 

Dated: 2/12/18

Ref: FMVSS No. 213



[1] LPS’s website was Littlepassengerseats.com.  Currently the site cannot be reached.  (Today’s date is February 9, 2018.)

[2] The website is now offline.

[3] Most of the images show the seat rear-facing.  There was one that may have shown the product forward-facing but the image was not clear. 

[4] In addition, the new vehicle must meet all applicable FMVSSs the compliance with which can be affected by installation of vehicle seats.  E.g., the new vehicle must meet stopping distance requirements, and post-crash fuel system integrity requirements, with the seat installed.

[5]  See past letters on this subject, such as https://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/7809.html, https://isearch.nhtsa.gov/gm/86/86-5.50.html.  As discussed in those letters, NHTSA requires new and aftermarket seats to be free of safety-related defects.  Further, commercial entities installing an aftermarket seat are subject to NHTSA’s prohibition against knowing making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a vehicle in compliance with an applicable FMVSS.

[6] See, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to expand the “built-in child restraint system” definition (57 FR 870, 871 col. 1; January 9, 1992).  In the NPRM, NHTSA stated: “NHTSA proposes to clarify the definition of a ‘built-in child restraint system’ to make clear that the definition includes both restraints that are integral parts of new vehicles as well as restraints that are designed to be integral parts of a motor vehicle, such as aftermarket restraint systems.”

[7] E.g., LPS stated on the Little Passenger Seats website, “Our seating is made for children.” (Accessed September 26, 2017; site currently offline.)  LPS also stated, “If you’re running out of space in your vehicle, add one of our safe custom seats to accommodate your little ones!”  LittlePassengerSeats.com, Facebook Updates, entry 4.  November 2, 2017.  Page retrieved February 9, 2018.  [https://web.archive.org/web/20171102141057/https://littlepassengerseats.com/]

[8] The built-in CRS is tested in a “specific vehicle shell” in a frontal barrier impact simulation at a velocity change of 48 km/h (30 mph) or in an actual vehicle in a 48 km/h (30 mph) frontal barrier crash.  (See FMVSS No. 213 S6.1.1(a)(2).)