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From Products Liability Law Daily, November 24, 2014

RECARO challenges NHTSA’s test procedures in noncompliance petition involving 79,000 RECARO child restraints

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Approximately 79,339 RECARO ProRide child restraints manufactured between April 9, 2010, and July 8, 2014, do not comply with the system integrity requirements when tested in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, “Child Restraints” and, therefore, RECARO Child Safety, LLC has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a decision of inconsequential noncompliance. In its petition, RECARO challenged NHTSA that Comments on this petition must be submitted by December 22, 2014 (79 FR 69551, November 21, 2014).

Noncompliance. According to the petition, the noncompliance is that these child restraints do not comply with the system integrity requirements of FMVSS No. 213 when subjected to the dynamic test requirements of that standard. During NHTSA’s compliance tests with the Hybrid II Six Year Old Dummy and the Hybrid III Weighted Six Year Old Dummy configured to the child restraints with the internal harness and the child restraints attached to the test bench with a lap belt and top tether, the tether belt separated at the attachment point to the child restraints. The top tether belt separation exhibited a complete separation of a load bearing structural element and therefore does not comply with the requirements set forth in FMVSS No. 213 S5.1.1(a).

Summary of petition. In support of its claim that the noncompliance was inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, RECARO argued that NHTSA’s test procedure was a direct violation of the instructions and warnings included with each ProRIDE and Performance RIDE child restraint and would constitute a misuse of these child restraints by the consumer. RECARO designed and tested the ProRIDE/Performance RIDE child restraints to meet FMVSS No. 213 requirements when tested according to the instruction manuals, which was developed from decades of research and experience in the automotive industry. According to RECARO, installation of the child restraint in accordance with the ProRIDE/Performance RIDE instruction manuals decreases the likelihood of top tether anchor failure from the vehicle. RECARO also stated that NHTSA noted in its 2012 FMVSS No. 213 Final Rule response that limitations were added to the lower anchors to “prevent lower LATCH anchor loads from exceeding their required strength level specified in FMVSS No. 225.” RECARO stated that they used this same rationale when they developed the RIDE platform in 2010 and concluded that a load limit of 52 pounds would be the safest for consumers.

With regard to structural integrity of these restraints, RECARO claimed that child restraint technology has fallen in-line with vehicle technology in recent years and that other child restraints have been designated “compliant” even though their convertible shell-to-base connection has been designed to crack and break during the peak loading in a crash, due to life-saving decreases in injury criterion values. RECARO further stated that the top tether webbing has been designed to rip and break apart under extreme loads to allow the deceleration time to increase for the occupant in the crash event. RECARO argued that if the injury criterion meets industry standards, then controlled breakage has proven multiple times to be a positive outcome in the event of a vehicle crash, as seen in the RIDE platform.

RECARO cited industry publications, documents which were published in the public docket for the 2012 Final Rule amendment of FMVSS No. 213, and other documents which were which were prepared for NHTSA as evidence validating its reasoning to limit the use of the top tether.

Finally, RECARO recognized that although NHTSA has a clear precedent of denying child restraint manufacturers’ petitions for inconsequential noncompliance concerning top tether separation, the company believed that the environment in which those decisions were made has changed. RECARO claimed that the methodology it uses to limit top tether loads actually increases safe installations of child restraints by limiting the pounds of force applied and decreasing the chance tether anchor load failures. RECARO also expressed its opinion that in the event of tether separation, the increase to risk of safety was non-existent because the head excursion limits were not exceeded in NHTSA’s compliance tests. RECARO also indicated that the risk of the subject child restraints impacting objects in the vehicle was identical to, or better than, other compliant child restraints because both restraints meet the same head excursion requirements.

RECARO did inform NHTSA that production and distribution of the affected child restraints affected by the noncompliance had been corrected effective July 9, 2014.

Companies: RECARO Child Safety, LLC

MainStory: TopStory MotorEquipmentNews NHTSANews

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