Thirty “Dynamic” Years of FMVSS 213

A look back at the milestones in development of FMVSS 213 and other related standards

This article originated in the July/August 2010 issue of Safe Ride News.

When FMVSS 213 was amended 30 years ago to require, as of January 1, 1981, dynamic testing and inclusion of all CRs for children under 50 pounds, it established the basic elements of the standard we use today.  Here is a brief history of some of the significant milestones and substantial improvements to FMVSS 213 and other related standards.

1971: NHTSA adopts first federal standard for child seating systems, FMVSS 213; requirements do not include dynamic (crash) tests, but do require use of a seat belt to hold the car seat in the vehicle and a harness to hold the child in the car seat. The requirements do not cover rear-facing infant restraints or car beds.

1981: More stringent version of FMVSS 213-80, Child Restraint Systems, becomes effective on 1/1/81; includes rear-facing infant restraints, car beds, and forward-facing restraints for children under 50 lbs.; requires frontal crash test at 30 mph, buckle release force (so children cannot release the harness), special labeling, and instruction criteria.

1985: FMVSS 213 amended to require a misuse test of seats that rely on tether straps in order to assure that they function adequately without tethers. This basically eliminates tethers from future CR designs until the 1999 introduction of the LATCH requirements.

1989: FMVSS 208 requires shoulder belts as required equipment in the outboard rear seats of new passenger vehicles starting in the 1990 model year, improving protection for children who have outgrown child restraints.

1993: April—First child killed by passenger air bag: a 6-year-old riding unbelted.

1994: July—NHTSA expands FMVSS 213 to include belt-positioning booster seat requirements.

1994: September —Dana Hutchinson, age 3, dies in her safety seat, due to the lack of a special add-on buckle to make the front seat belt system able to properly hold a CR in place. Unprecedented publicity draws national attention to problems of child restraint-motor vehicle compatibility; seat belts designed primarily to provide restraint for adult passengers may not anchor child restraints properly.  NHTSA forms the Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Restraint and Vehicle Compatibility.

1995: June—Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Restraint and Vehicle Compatibility presents findings, calls for regulatory changes to permit the installation of a universal anchorage system for child restraints (originally called ISOFIX) that does not rely on seat belts. Also calls for improved instructions for products (child restraints and vehicles) and better education of users of child restraints.

1996: January—FMVSS 213 amendment requires testing with greater range of dummies: newborn, 20 pound, 6-year-old ATDs.

1996: August—Toll of infants and children killed from contact with a passenger air bag reaches 21. NHTSA offers amendments to air bag requirements, including additional warning labels and cut-off switch options for vehicles without “smart” air bags and encouragement of smart air bags that would not deploy if a child were in the seating position.

1996: Requirement added to FMVSS 213 for an air bag warning label on the pad of all rear-facing CRs.

1999: September—The tether part of the universal child restraints anchorage standard (LATCH) begins with the requirement that all forward-facing CRs must pass a reduced head excursion test, for which almost all employ a tether strap.

2000: September—Lower LATCH anchor phase-in for vehicles (model year 2001) begins with 20 percent of passenger vehicles of all types up to 8,500 pounds, as well as small school buses under 10,000 pounds.

2002: September—final implementation of the LATCH requirement for lower anchors installation (ISOFIX anchors and attachments) in 100 percent of passenger vehicles (model year 2003).

2005: August—FMVSS 213 amended, adding 22 pound 1-year-old (CRABI) ATD; weighted 6-year-old (65 pound) ATD added for booster testing.

NOTE:  Dates for amendments intend to reflect the date that change went into effect.