Products Liability Law Daily NHTSA proposes updates to list of child restraint systems used for air bag testing
Thursday, October 29, 2020

NHTSA proposes updates to list of child restraint systems used for air bag testing

By Leah S. Poniatowski, J.D.

Amendments would reflect current CRS market availability and model numbers, and would allow a phase-in of the amendment to give manufacturers reasonable time to certify their advanced air bag systems using the new CRSs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a proposed rule making that would update the current Appendix A-1 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant crash protection, in order to have the list reflect child restraint systems (CRSs, or car seats) currently available in the market or those whose model number has changed. NHTSA uses the CRSs in Appendix A–1 to test the performance of advanced air bag suppression and low risk deployment systems in either suppressing or deploying the air bag in a low-risk manner in the presence of a CRS. The proposed amendments would ensure that the CRSs used by NHTSA to test advanced air bags are representative of the current CRS fleet, and would make it easier for vehicle manufacturers and test laboratories to acquire CRSs for testing purposes. Comments on the proposed rule must be received no later than December 28, 2020 (85 FR 68541, October 29, 2020).

Advanced Air Bag Rule and testing. NHTSA issued a final rule in 2000 (65 FR 30680), the Advanced Air Bag Rule, with the aim of reducing air bag-related injuries to small adults and young children, particularly as front-seat air bags pose a risk to children in car seats. This rule allowed vehicle manufacturers to employ one of three options to provide protection to children: first, to have the front seat air bag to automatically suppress when a child is in the front seat; second, have the air bags deploy at a low level of force; or, finally, a dynamic automatic suppression system, which would detect when the front seat occupant is too close to the air bag and suppress the deployment.

For tests that involve air bag performance in the presence of anthropomorphic test dummies in CRSs, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles will comply with the advanced air bag rule requirements when tested by NHTSA using the CRSs identified in Appendix A of FMVSS No. 208.

Appendix. When it issued the Advanced Air Bag Rule, NHTSA included Appendix A to the rule listing CRSs that represent a large portion of the car seat market. The list has been amended on prior occasions to reflect the current market, and the most recent amendment was issued in 2008. NHTSA created a new "Appendix A–1" to facilitate phasing-in the requirement to certify vehicles with updated CRSs. Currently, Appendix A-1 is the only appendix in effect. NHTSA considers several factors when deciding whether to update the appendix: whether a certain CRS is a high-volume model, whether its mass and dimensions are representative of other CRSs on the market or are outliers, and whether there is a variety of CRS manufacturers being represented.

Proposed changes. NHTSA reviewed the most recent appendix and determined that all of the listed CRSs should be replaced or updated. Specifically, NHTSA will delete CRSs that have been discontinued by their respective manufacturers, update two of the CRSs on the present list to reflect newer models, and add several CRSs.

Structurally, NHTSA proposes to remove the current Appendix A (which has been phased out), redesignate Appendix A–1 as Appendix A, and add the new list of CRSs as Appendix A–1. According to the agency, designating the current CRS list "Appendix A" and the updated CRS list "Appendix A–1" simplifies the implementation of this proposed rule because it allows NHTSA to use the phase-in schedule from the 2008 final rule by simply adjusting the mandatory compliance dates to correspond to this rule making.

NHTSA also proposes a phase-in schedule in order to give manufacturers sufficient lead time to ensure compliance, i.e., time to purchase and implement new CRSs for air bag system testing under FMVSS No. 208. Accordingly, 50 percent of the vehicles manufactured on or after the first September 1st after the publication date of the final rule must be certified as meeting FMVSS No. 208 when tested with the CRSs on the revised Appendix A–1, and all vehicles manufactured on or after the second September 1st after the publication date of the final rule must meet that certification.

MainStory: TopStory MotorEquipmentNews

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