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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

Christopher A. Hart
Federal Register
May 18, 1994

[Federal Register: May 18, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 74-14; Notice 89]
RIN 2127-AF09

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule, response to petitions for reconsideration.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces the response to two petitions for 
reconsideration of a March 2, 1993 final rule amending Standard No. 
208, Occupant Crash Protection. The final rule provided all 
manufacturers of certain trucks and multipurpose passenger vehicles 
designed to be driven by persons with disabilities an alternative to 
complying with the existing occupant restraint requirements.
    The first petition requested the extension of this option to all 
vehicles designed for persons with disabilities. This petition is 
denied because the agency does not believe that these vehicles have any 
unique features warranting an exclusion from the existing requirements.
    The second petition requested the option of installing Type 2A 
belts instead of Type 2 belts. This petition is granted for the 
driver's seating position because a Type 2 belt cannot be properly 
positioned to protect the occupants of some wheelchairs.

DATES: Effective Date: The amendments made in this rule are effective 
June 17, 1994.
    Petition date: Any petitions for reconsideration must be received 
by NHTSA no later than June 17, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Any petitions for reconsideration should refer to the docket 
and notice number of this notice and be submitted to: Administrator, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Daniel Cohen, NRM-12, Office of 
Vehicle Safety Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. 
Telephone: (202) 366-2264.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On March 2, 1993, NHTSA published a final 
rule amending Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, to provide 
manufacturers of trucks and multipurpose passenger vehicles designed to 
be driven by persons with disabilities with an alternative to complying 
with the existing occupant restraint requirement (58 FR 11975). Under 
that alternative, these manufacturers are permitted to install manual 
safety belts that have not been dynamically tested at the front 
outboard seating positions instead of installing dynamically tested 
manual safety belts. The March 1993 final rule also gave them the 
option of installing manual safety belts that have not been dynamically 
tested instead of complying with requirements that have been issued, 
but are not yet effective, for the installation of dynamically tested 
automatic restraints in those positions.
    The agency received two petitions for reconsideration of the March 
1993 final rule. As explained below, the petition seeking an expansion 
of this exclusion to any vehicle designed for use by persons with 
disabilities is denied. In response to the other petition, NHTSA is 
amending Standard No. 208 to allow the installation of Type 2A belts at 
the driver's seating position in vehicles affected by the March 1993 
final rule.

Affected Vehicles

    The March 1993 final rule excluded ``vehicles manufactured for 
operation by persons with disabilities'' from certain requirements of 
Standard No. 208. The Braun Corporation (Braun) petitioned for 
reconsideration of the March 1993 final rule because they believe the 
exclusion should extend to all vehicles manufactured for persons with 
disabilities, and not just those manufactured for operation by persons 
with disabilities. A number of commenters on the notice of proposed 
rulemaking (NPRM) preceding the March 1993 final rule also asked for an 
extension to other vehicles, particularly vehicles modified for the 
right front passenger position.
    NHTSA continues to believe that the exclusion granted by the March 
1993 final rule should not be extended. The modifications discussed by 
Braun in its petition for reconsideration, raising the side door and 
roof, are similar to modifications made to a number of vehicles, not 
only those manufactured for persons with disabilities. For example, 
Care Concepts, Inc., in a previous docket submission (Docket No. 74-14; 
Notice 76-004) advertises a van conversion that is accomplished by 
lowering the floor in certain Chrysler products such as the Plymouth 
Voyager, the Dodge Caravan, and the Chrysler Town and Country minivan. 
As stated previously, NHTSA believes that all individuals are entitled 
to an equivalent level of occupant crash protection. However, NHTSA 
believes that the goal of providing equivalent crash protection should 
not be achieved at the expense of the goal of providing mobility to all 
Americans. NHTSA excluded vehicles manufactured for operation by 
persons with disabilities from the dynamic testing requirements because 
those vehicles have unique modifications to the driver's seating 
position (e.g., hand operated controls) which make it difficult to 
comply with these requirements. Without the exclusion, manufacturers 
might not be able to produce these vehicles.
    By contrast, the modifications discussed by Braun are not unique to 
vehicles manufactured for persons with disabilities. Other 
manufacturers are making similar modifications to other vehicles and 
certifying to the dynamic testing requirements of Standard No. 208. 
Because it is possible to certify these vehicles, NHTSA finds no 
justification for sacrificing the goal of equivalent crash protection. 
Braun may have to choose another option for how these modifications 
will be made in order to certify the vehicles. For example, other 
manufacturers place the lift door at the rear of the van or lower the 
floor to provide the necessary height. Therefore, the Braun petition is 
denied.

Type 2A Belts

    The March 1993 final rule allows manufacturers of vehicles 
manufactured for operation by persons with disabilities the option of 
installing non-dynamically tested Type 2 manual belts (integrated lap 
and shoulder belts) at the front outboard seating positions. NHTSA did 
not allow the installation of Type 2A belts (non-integrated lap and 
shoulder belts), despite requests of commenters on the NPRM, because 
the commenters had not provided any information to suggest that 
equivalent or greater safety benefits would be achieved.
    Independent Mobility Systems, Inc. (IMS) petitioned for 
reconsideration of the issue of Type 2A belts. IMS enclosed photographs 
illustrating various ways to position a Type 2 belt around a person 
seated in a closed arm wheelchair. In one example, the lap belt portion 
is placed over the top of the arm rests. If positioned this way, the 
lap belt crosses the person's abdomen and cannot be positioned on the 
pelvis as it is supposed to be. In the other example, the lap belt 
portion is placed in front of the arm rests. If positioned this way, 
the occupant would receive virtually no benefit from the belt because 
there is so much slack introduced.
    NHTSA believes that the photographs enclosed with the IMS petition 
support the requested amendment. If Type 2A belts were permitted, a 
person seated in a fixed arm wheelchair could separately attach the lap 
belt portion under the arm rests and position it properly on his or her 
pelvis. NHTSA recognizes that it has stated that Type 2 belts offer 
greater safety benefits than Type 2A belts, because they are less 
likely to be improperly used (e.g., by attaching only the lap portion). 
However, in this situation, the Type 2A belt is the only belt which can 
be properly used.
    NHTSA notes that the only seating position for which the requested 
change regarding Type 2A belts is necessary is the driver's seating 
position. The driver's seat is the only seat which is required to be in 
a vehicle. (See Standard No. 207.) If a vehicle is to be driven by a 
person in a wheelchair, the manufacturer must install a seat at the 
driver's position which can be removed to allow a person to drive while 
seated in a wheelchair.
    Any other location in a vehicle designed for an occupied wheelchair 
is not required to also have a seat. If there were no seat, that 
location would not be a designated seating position. Since safety belts 
are required for only those locations that are designated seating 
positions, there would not be any safety belt requirements applicable 
to the seatless location. Thus, a manufacturer may voluntarily install 
any type of occupant restraint in that location.
    Therefore, NHTSA is amending Standard No. 208 to allow the use of 
Type 2A belts at the driver's seating position in vehicles affected by 
the March 1993 final rule.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) and DOT 
Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    This notice was not reviewed under Executive Order 12866. NHTSA has 
examined the impact of this rulemaking action and determined that, it 
is not ``significant'' within the meaning of the Department of 
Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. NHTSA does not 
believe that there is a cost difference between Type 2 and Type 2A 
belts. In addition, NHTSA notes that the change made in this final rule 
is optional.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    NHTSA has also considered the impacts of this final rule under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. I hereby certify that this rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. As explained above, there will not be a significant economic 
impact as a result of this final rule.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-
511), NHTSA notes that there are no requirements for information 
collection associated with this final rule.

National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has also analyzed this final rule under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and determined that it will not have a 
significant impact on the human environment.

Executive Order 12612 (Federalism)

    Finally, NHTSA has analyzed this rule in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in E.O. 12612, and has determined 
that this rule will not have significant federalism implications to 
warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

Civil Justice Reform

    This final rule does not have any retroactive effect. Under section 
103(d) of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety 
Act; 15 U.S.C. 1392(d)), whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety 
standard is in effect, a State may not adopt or maintain a safety 
standard applicable to the same aspect of performance which is not 
identical to the Federal standard, except to the extent that the State 
requirement imposes a higher level of performance and applies only to 
vehicles procured for the State's use. Section 105 of the Safety Act 
(15 U.S.C. 1394) sets forth a procedure for judicial review of final 
rules establishing, amending or revoking Federal motor vehicle safety 
standards. That section does not require submission of a petition for 
reconsideration or other administrative proceedings before parties may 
file suit in court.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Motor vehicle safety, Motor vehicles.
    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR part 571 is amended as 
follows:

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

    1. The authority citation for part 571 of title 49 continues to 
read as follows:

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1392, 1401, 1403, 1407; delegation of 
authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    2. Section 571.208 is amended by revising S4.2.1.2 to read as 
follows:


Sec. 571.208  Standard No. 208; Occupant crash protection.

* * * * *
    S4.2.1.2 Second option--belt system. The vehicle shall have seat 
belt assemblies that conform to Standard 209 (49 CFR 571.209) installed 
as follows:
    (a) A Type 1 or Type 2 seat belt assembly shall be installed for 
each designated seating position in convertibles, open-body type 
vehicles, and walk-in van-type trucks.
    (b) In vehicles manufactured for operation by persons with 
disabilities, a Type 2 or Type 2A seat belt assembly shall be installed 
for the driver's seating position, a Type 2 seat belt assembly shall be 
installed for each other outboard designated seating position that 
includes the windshield header within the head impact area, and a Type 
1 or Type 2 seat belt assembly shall be installed for each other 
designated seating position.
    (c) In all vehicles except those for which requirements are 
specified in S4.2.1.2 (a) or (b), a Type 2 seat belt assembly shall be 
installed for each outboard designated seating position that includes 
the windshield header within the head impact area, and a Type 1 or Type 
2 seat belt assembly shall be installed for each other designated 
seating position.
* * * * *
    Issued on May 11, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-11919 Filed 5-17-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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