Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection, 53386-53390 [2013-21128]

Download as PDF 53386 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 168 / Thursday, August 29, 2013 / Proposed Rules casual park use by persons that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers. * * * * * Special event means a sports event, pageant, celebration, historical reenactment, entertainment, exhibition, parade, fair, festival, or similar activity that is not a demonstration, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers. This term does not include casual park use by persons that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers. * * * * * Dated: August 6, 2013. Rachel Jacobson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2013–21060 Filed 8–28–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4312–EJ–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA–R07–OAR–2013–0482; FRL 9900–40Region 7] Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; State of Missouri; St. Louis Area Transportation Conformity Requirements Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: EPA is proposing to approve the State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision submitted by the state of Missouri on March 17, 2011. This revision proposes to amend the rule to provide more specificity to the interagency consultation process requirements and responsibilities. The revision to Missouri’s rule does not add any additional requirements to the existing rule but merely adds language that better clarifies specific roles and responsibilities including the consultation groups’ processes. Further, these revisions do not have an adverse affect on air quality. EPA’s approval of this SIP revision is being done in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA). DATES: Comments on this proposed action must be received in writing by September 30, 2013. ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA–R07– OAR–2013–0482, by mail to: Steven Brown, Environmental Protection sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:54 Aug 28, 2013 Jkt 229001 Agency, Air Planning and Development Branch, 11201 Renner Boulevard, Lenexa, Kansas 66219. Comments may also be submitted electronically or through hand delivery/courier by following the detailed instructions in the ADDRESSES section of the direct final rule located in the rules section of this Federal Register. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steven Brown at (913) 551–7718, or by email at brown.steven@epa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In the final rules section of the Federal Register, EPA is approving the state’s SIP revision as a direct final rule without prior proposal because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial revision amendment and anticipates no relevant adverse comments to this action. A detailed rationale for the approval is set forth in the direct final rule. If no relevant adverse comments are received in response to this action, no further activity is contemplated in relation to this action. If EPA receives relevant adverse comments, the direct final rule will be withdrawn and all public comments received will be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on this proposed action. EPA will not institute a second comment period on this action. Any parties interested in commenting on this action should do so at this time. Please note that if EPA receives adverse comment on part of this rule and if that part can be severed from the remainder of the rule, EPA may adopt as final those parts of the rule that are not the subject of an adverse comment. For additional information, see the direct final rule which is located in the rules section of this Federal Register. Dated: August 1, 2013. Mark Hague, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 7. [FR Doc. 2013–20915 Filed 8–28–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 49 CFR Part 571 [Docket No. NHTSA–2013–0095] Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT. ACTION: Denial of petition for rulemaking. AGENCY: PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 This document denies a rulemaking petition submitted by BMW Group, BMW of North America, LLC, to amend the Federal motor vehicle safety standard on occupant crash protection to permit optional certification using a seat belt interlock for front seat occupants as an alternative to the unbelted crash test requirements. The agency is denying the petition because the supporting material provided by the petitioner is not sufficient for the agency to fully evaluate the safety need, benefits, effectiveness, and acceptability of seat belt interlock systems. Furthermore, in 2012, the agency initiated the development of a research program on seat belt interlocks in light of its newly-acquired statutory authority to allow consideration of seat belt interlocks as a compliance option. The agency believes that making a determination to amend its performance standards prior to the completion of its research is premature. SUMMARY: For Non-Legal Issues: Ms. Carla Rush, Office of Crashworthiness Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, Telephone: (202) 366–4583, Facsimile: (202) 493– 2739. For Legal Issues: Mr. William Shakely, Office of Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, Telephone: (202) 366–2992, Facsimile: (202) 366– 3820. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background NHTSA’s mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Increasing seat belt use is one of the agency’s highest priorities for carrying out this mission. For each percentage point gain in national seat belt usage, we estimate that 200 lives are saved each year. In 2012, the nationwide seat belt use reached a high of 86 percent for drivers and front seat passengers. To achieve this rate, we have relied on an array of agency initiatives, such as regulating and promoting the use of in-vehicle technologies, the Click It or Ticket program 1 and State primary enforcement laws, to encourage seat belt usage. Notwithstanding impressive gains in seat belt usage, data from the 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) indicates that 52 percent of all 1 http://www.nhtsa.gov/ciot. E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 168 / Thursday, August 29, 2013 / Proposed Rules passenger vehicle crash fatalities were unbelted occupants. A. History and Research of Seat Belt Interlock Systems From a historical perspective, the agency’s goal of increasing seat belt usage extends back nearly to the agency’s inception. In 1972, as an interim measure to increase seat belt use until acceptable automatic systems became available, the agency added a compliance option for passenger vehicles manufactured between August 15, 1973 and August 14, 1975, that allowed the use of an interlock system that prevented the engine from starting if any front-seat occupant was not buckled up (37 FR 3911). However, as a result of consumer non-acceptance of these interlock systems, Congress adopted a new provision, as part of the Motor Vehicle and Schoolbus Safety Amendments of 1974 (Pub. L. 93–492, 88 Stat. 1470 (Oct. 27, 1974)). It prohibited NHTSA from requiring, or permitting as a compliance option 2 a safety belt interlock designed to prevent starting or operating a motor vehicle if an occupant is not using a seat belt or a buzzer designed to indicate a seat belt is not in use, except a buzzer that operates only during the 8-second period after the ignition is turned to the ‘‘start’’ or ‘‘on’’ position (49 U.S.C. 30124). In 1975, NHTSA funded a research study on seat belt interlock systems in production vehicles.3 The study intended to measure the effectiveness of the interlock system in increasing seat belt usage. Three separate analyses were conducted. Two involved seat belt use observations among rental car customers from U.S. airports and interviews of a subsample of non-users. The third was a field study of observed seat belt use and a follow-up telephone interview among private car owners in the general population. The field study found that occupants of model year (MY) 1973 vehicles showed a 3–6 percent seat belt use rate, while those of MY 1974 vehicles showed a significantly higher seat belt use rate of 41–64 percent.4 However, the sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 2 We note that the statutory prohibition restricting the use of interlocks as an option for compliance with NHTSA standards in no way limited the manufacturer’s freedom to place interlocks in vehicles. See NHTSA’s 2004 interpretation letter to Mr. Bruce H. Carraway, Jr., Carraway Safety Belt Company at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/ a00473beltminder_cmc.html. 3 A. Westefeld and B. M. Phillips. Safety Belt Interlock System: Usage Survey. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, May 1975. DOT HS 801 594. 4 Most MY 1974 vehicles were equipped with seat belt interlock systems. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:54 Aug 28, 2013 Jkt 229001 study also found a decline in the seat belt use rate among occupants of the MY 1974 vehicles as the year went on (e.g., in February seat belt usage was 64 percent among drivers and front right passengers and by November it dropped to 41 percent). This decline in seat belt use within the observed year was attributed to mechanical issues with the system as well as drivers learning how to defeat or circumvent the system. Telephone interviews of the vehicle owners found that 59 percent considered the seat belt interlocks to be ‘‘unfavorable.’’ The proportion of vehicle owners that were categorized as non-users that considered the interlock systems ‘‘unfavorable’’ was 87 percent. Furthermore, only 54 percent of the vehicle owners interviewed reported that they had not defeated or circumvented the interlock system. In 2001, NHTSA funded a study (through a contract with the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)) of the potential benefits of technologies designed to increase seat belt use.5 This study aimed to determine how drivers (at that time) might accept technologies designed to increase seat belt use. As part of this study, NHTSA conducted indepth interviews and focus groups to obtain a greater understanding of the perceived effectiveness and acceptability of four technologies: two seat belt reminder systems and two interlock systems (entertainment and transmission).6 The NAS committee reviewed the available literature, held stakeholder meetings with key automobile manufacturers and suppliers, and reviewed the results of the in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted by NHTSA for this study.7 Among the NAS study findings, transmission interlock systems were perceived to be highly effective based upon the interviews and focus groups conducted. More than 85 percent of respondents rated them effective. However, only 43 percent rated them acceptable with the hard-core nonusers 8 making up the highest 5 ‘‘Buckling Up, Technologies to Increase Seat Belt Use,’’ Special Report 278, Committee for the Safety Belt Technology Study, http://www.TRB.org, 2003. 6 An entertainment interlock prevents playing the radio or stereo unless seat belts are buckled. A transmission interlock prevents putting the vehicle in gear unless seat belts are buckled. 7 Bentley, J.J., Kurrus, R., & Beuse, N. ‘‘Qualitative research regarding attitudes towards four technologies aimed at increasing safety belt use.’’ (Report 2003–01) Bethesda, MD: Equals Three Communications. DOT HS 043 581. 8 Hard-core non-users are those who report never or rarely using seat belts. PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 53387 percentage (71 percent) of respondents who rated the transmission interlock not acceptable. The recommendations from the study suggested that NHTSA and the private sector encourage the research and development of seat belt interlock systems for certain high-risk groups (e.g., drivers impaired by alcohol, teenage drivers) who are overrepresented in crashes. It also suggested that interlocks could be installed on company fleets. Other recommendations issued by the NAS report involved seat belt reminders and other strategies. In 2009, NHTSA published a report on a field study that evaluated a device that prevented drivers from shifting vehicles into gear for up to 8 seconds unless the seat belt was buckled.9 This study showed that a gearshift delay resulted in a significant 20 percentagepoint increase among two samples of commercial fleet drivers. This study also noted that future research could investigate a complete transmission seat belt interlock now that seat belt use is much higher than in the 1970s and that transmission interlocks may receive higher acceptance than ignition interlocks. Given the history of interlocks, and the statutory prohibition against requiring or allowing seat belt interlocks as a compliance option, manufacturers have primarily focused their efforts on developing and introducing technologies that encourage seat belt use, but that are acceptable to customers, such as seat belt reminder systems. Such systems can be effective without being overly annoying. In 2012, President Obama signed into law Public Law 112–141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21). MAP–21, a transportation reauthorization bill, removed the restriction from permitting the use of seat belt interlocks as a compliance option. However, the prohibition on requiring a seat belt interlock still remains. In 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published its findings from a national telephone survey it conducted on the attitudes toward seat belt use and in-vehicle technologies for encouraging seat belt use. The respondents were asked about their support of different types of seat belt interlocks: a speed interlock, a transmission interlock, an entertainment system interlock, and an ignition interlock. The survey found that only about half of the full-time seat belt users 9 Pilot Tests of a Seat Belt Gearshift Delay on the Belt Use of Commercial Fleet (DOT HS 811 230)— Dec. 2009. E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 53388 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 168 / Thursday, August 29, 2013 / Proposed Rules supported the use of seat belt interlocks to encourage seat belt use and even fewer part-time seat belt users and nonusers supported their use.10 B. Unbelted Test Requirements Initially, the injury criteria limits in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208 had to be met for air bag equipped vehicles in frontal rigid barrier crash tests at speeds up to 48 km/h (30 mph), with the 50th percentile adult male dummies wearing seat belts, and in separate barrier crashes at those speeds with dummies being protected by automatic (passive) means (35 FR 16927). However, due in part to litigation, the passive protection requirements did not begin until the MY 1987 for passenger cars and MY 1995 for light trucks and vans. The barrier test was performed with the dummies unbelted if the means of passive protection was an air bag.11 In 1997, the agency amended FMVSS No. 208 to provide a temporary option for manufacturers to certify their vehicles to an unbelted sled test as an alternative to the unbelted barrier test requirement (62 FR 12960). NHTSA established the sled test option to address the air bag fatalities that were occurring at the time, and to ensure that the vehicle manufacturers could quickly depower all air bags so that they inflate less aggressively. As part of the May 2000 final rule that required advanced air bags, the sled test option was removed and vehicle manufacturers were required to meet a rigid barrier crash test with both unbelted 5th percentile adult female dummies and 50th percentile adult male dummies in a 20 mph to 25 mph rigid barrier crash test (65 FR 30680). sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS II. Petition On October 23, 2012, BMW Group, BMW of North America, LLC, (herein referred to as the petitioner) submitted a petition to NHTSA to amend FMVSS No. 208, ‘‘Occupant crash protection,’’ to permit a certification option using a seat belt interlock for front seat occupants as an alternative to the existing unbelted crash test.12 10 D.G. Kidd, et al. ‘‘Attitudes toward seat belt use and in-vehicle technologies for encouraging belt use.’’ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, January 2013. http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/ pdf/r1183.pdf. 11 On September 2, 1993, NHTSA amended FMVSS No. 208 to require the installation of air bags as the means of providing automatic crash protection (58 FR 46551). The full compliance date for the amended requirements was September 1, 1997, for passenger cars and September 1, 1998, for light trucks and vans. 12 The petitioner noted that it had initiated the action with the Congress to amend the Motor VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:54 Aug 28, 2013 Jkt 229001 The petitioner cited several arguments in support of their request, including the potential benefits associated with the increased use of seat belts as well as the opportunity to design optimized systems for belted occupants. The petitioner estimated that hundreds of lives could be saved if FMVSS No. 208 was modified as requested and it suggested that the number of lives that could be saved by increasing seat belt use would be significant compared to other agency rulemakings (e.g., roof crush, ejection mitigation, tire pressure monitoring systems, etc.). With regard to optimizing for belted occupants, the petitioner noted that it was gathering additional simulation/user acceptability data to share with the agency, as confidential business information. However, the agency has not received that data to date. By allowing vehicles to be optimized for belted occupants, the petitioner claimed that vehicles will be lighter and more spacious, as well as more fuel efficient with lower emissions. The petitioner estimated that a 7 pound vehicle weight reduction (by removing knee bolsters) would result in carbon dioxide (CO2) savings between 274–406 metric tons per year and 30,850–45,744 gallons of fuel saved per year. The petitioner stated that by making interlocks a compliance option, there would not be any cost burden associated with this amendment and it would result in savings of Federal and State funds (e.g., expenses for emergency medical services (EMS), hospital stays, insurance, traffic, etc.). It also claimed that Federal funding for seat belt initiatives could be used to fund other programs since seat belt interlocks have the potential of increasing belt usage at no extra cost to the government. The petitioner identified three potential types of interlock systems: An ignition interlock, a transmission interlock, and a speed-limiting interlock. The petitioner noted that an ignition interlock would likely have low customer acceptance, based on past reactions, and have other disadvantages (e.g., does not allow remote starting, encourages defeat mechanisms, etc.). The petitioner stated that a transmission interlock has the benefits of an ignition interlock, but allows the driver to warm up the vehicle or simply sit in the vehicle with the heat or air conditioning running. The petitioner believed that a speed-limiting interlock, that allows the vehicle to drive at low speeds (ideal for short distance tasks, such as driving to Vehicle Safety Act to give the agency the authority to allow a seat belt interlock as a compliance option. PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 a mail box, towing situations, etc.), would be the least annoying and most accepted type of interlock. The petitioner further expressed its preference for a speed-limiting interlock system that focuses on front occupants only. It stated that monitoring rear seat belt usage would be problematic because occupant detection in the rear would prevent consumers from carrying cargo on the rear seats, which would likely result in consumer backlash.13 III. Analysis of Petition The agency is denying the petitioner’s request to allow a seat belt interlock compliance option as an alternative to unbelted crash test requirements of FMVSS No. 208. Removing the protection offered to unbelted occupants would be unprecedented for NHTSA considering unbelted crash test requirements date back to the 1970s (35 FR 16927).14 To do so without a sufficient scientific basis could lead to unintended consequences and potentially negative outcomes. Given the complex issues surrounding seat belt interlocks, the agency believes that it would be desirable to have additional information beyond that provided by the petitioner before deciding whether to pursue the requested rulemaking action. The agency would like to evaluate the safety case for rulemaking on this issue objectively and with a reasonable degree of certainty. However, the agency does not have sufficient information, at this time, to perform such an evaluation. Although there may be potential benefits of a seat belt interlock system as a means of increasing seat belt use, as suggested by the petitioner, the agency does not believe this is sufficient justification, without additional information, for the requested rulemaking. There are many other important considerations that we would like addressed before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking. Among such considerations would be user acceptability and potential disbenefits. The following discussion provides further analysis of the justification provided by the petitioner as well as other key factors that the agency would want to consider before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking. 13 Occupant detection systems that rely on weight sensors would have problems distinguishing occupants from cargo, which could be a source of annoyance for drivers if cargo is triggering the interlock system and not an unbuckled occupant. 14 Due to many years of litigation, the passive protection requirements did not begin until MY 1987 for passenger cars and MY 1995 for light trucks and vans. E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 168 / Thursday, August 29, 2013 / Proposed Rules The petitioner’s main arguments for permitting the use of seat belt interlock systems as a compliance option are that it would increase seat belt use rates among front seat occupants and allow manufacturers to optimize their vehicle interior and safety restraint designs for belted occupants. It also mentioned the added benefit of allowing manufacturers the design freedom to create innovative lightweight vehicle concepts. The agency agrees with the theoretical premise that a seat belt interlock system could have the potential to increase seat belt use rates. This is consistent with our past research. However, the degree to which seat belt use will increase is not clear and is likely dependent on multiple factors. Since interlocks have not been present in the vehicle fleet since the 1970s, it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of their effectiveness and acceptance at this time. We cannot assume the effects will be the same as they were in the past. Given today’s 86 percent seat belt use rate, if interlocks were re-introduced into the vehicle fleet, we would not experience an eight-fold increase in seat belt use that the 1975 study on the interlock systems reported. Furthermore, the petitioner failed to address the acceptance of interlock systems, given their historical background. The IIHS’s recent survey suggested that the acceptance among part-time and non-users of these systems has not improved over the years. This lack of acceptance among the types of occupants that an interlock is intended to target leads to the reasonable assumption that such occupants may attempt to disable the interlocks. This is supported by the research findings and the real world historical evidence of consumer backlash in the 1970s, which resulted in motorists finding ways to disconnect or circumvent their interlock system. The petitioner does not address how such a system would be hardened to prevent it from being disabled or circumvented, nor the expected actual effectiveness of the systems based on the level of hardening. Before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking, NHTSA would want such information in order to evaluate the technologies available to limit the possibility that seat belt interlock systems could be circumvented or disabled and to evaluate potential test procedures to determine that a vehicle certified by this option could not be circumvented or disabled and the costs and expected effectiveness of added technologies to ensure that. The petitioner did not provide specifics of how any of the three types of systems VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:54 Aug 28, 2013 Jkt 229001 it described would be hardened to prevent circumvention or any means by which the agency could ensure the system could not be defeated. Another concern with an interlock system that is not universally effective (i.e., results in some remainder of occupants unbelted) is the potential risk of harm to those unbelted occupants. By allowing manufacturers to opt out of complying with the unbelted frontal crash test requirements, it potentially puts unbelted occupants at an increased risk of harm. Before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking, the agency would want to determine and quantify the potential disbenefit to those remaining unbelted occupants in comparison to the protection they are now offered. The petition lacked an analysis of this issue. The petitioner instead opined that the current unbelted test requirements may result in a reduction of protection to belted front seat occupants. It claimed that belted occupant protection can be optimized if the unbelted tests were removed; however, no data were submitted to substantiate this claim. The agency is further unaware of any increased risk of injury to belted front occupants as a result of vehicle optimization being done to meet both the unbelted and belted crash protection requirements. Without detailed information on the design changes the petitioner envisions that vehicle manufacturers will make in order to offer better protection to belted front occupants in the absence of an unbelted test requirement and the associated quantified benefits, the agency is unable to assess the validity of the petitioner’s claim. The petitioner also suggested that by permitting the use of a seat belt interlock system as a compliance option, manufacturers could optimize their vehicles to be ‘‘lighter, more spacious and fuel efficient.’’ The petitioner stated that manufacturers are known to modify the vehicle interior designs and oversize the restraint systems in order to meet the unbelted frontal occupant crash protection criteria. It estimated that by granting its petition, a 7 pound vehicle weight reduction (by removing knee bolsters) would result in CO2 and fuel savings. We presume that by suggesting the removal of a restraint system component, such as the knee bolster, the implication is that if there were no unbelted test, the knee bolster could be removed. However, it is unclear to the agency how removal of the knee bolster helps optimize the protection offered to belted occupants, as the petitioner suggested. It is also important to understand the extent of the safety PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 53389 reduction, if removal of components like knee bolsters degrades the protection of those occupants that might remain unbelted. The agency acknowledges that equipment added to vehicles to comply with safety standards may increase vehicle weight, and therefore have a secondary, but generally very small, effect on vehicle fuel economy, and, in some cases, decreased passenger compartment space. However, when considering a petition to exempt a manufacturer from complying with an occupant safety standard, the agency’s first consideration would be the effects of the proposed exemption on occupant safety. Furthermore, the petitioner’s requested amendments will not necessarily lead to fuel economy gains that could be attributed to this rulemaking action since there is no accompanying requirement on the part of the vehicle manufacturer to achieve these fuel economy benefits. The petitioner stated that by making interlocks a compliance option there would be no resulting cost burden. It also claimed there would be savings to society associated with reduction in expenses for such things as EMS, hospitals, insurance, and traffic. It also claimed that Federal funding for seat belt initiatives could be used elsewhere. The agency has not traditionally estimated the cost burden to industry for compliance options because the agency’s focus is on whether the various options will result in similar benefits. To the extent cost burden would be considered, it is only one of many factors the agency must consider in allowing an option. As we expressed above, the petition is lacking other important information that the agency would want in order to determine the merits of the petitioner’s request. As to the petitioner’s claims of societal cost savings, we note that the costs related to emergency medical services, hospital stays and insurance would all be captured in our assessment of injury reduction related to any increase in seat belt use. As to any cost saving related to traffic reduction, we do not expect that an interlock would prevent a crash from occurring, thus the assumption of a cost saving related to this factor is speculative. Finally, as to the claimed potential savings related to funding of seat belt use initiatives, we note the following observations. First, even if a seat belt interlock compliance option were allowed, it would only affect new vehicles and there would be many legacy vehicles in the fleet without interlocks. Second, since it would be a compliance option, the extent to which this option will be E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1 53390 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 168 / Thursday, August 29, 2013 / Proposed Rules selected is unknown, again potentially leaving vehicles in the fleet without interlocks. Thus, we predict that seat belt use initiatives would need to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Finally, we wish to make clear that the denial of this petition does not restrict the petitioner, or any other manufacturer, from voluntarily providing a seat belt interlock system in their vehicles.15 In fact, such a voluntary implementation would likely yield important real world data about interlock systems that could be utilized by the agency in the future. sroberts on DSK5SPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS IV. NHTSA Planned Seat Belt Interlock Systems Research The agency is in the process of developing a research program on seat belt interlock systems in an effort to understand the potential for improving occupant safety in light of the agency’s newly acquired statutory authority to permit interlocks as a compliance option. The human factors research program will gather data to help determine the effectiveness and acceptance of seat belt interlock systems as well as discuss potential minimum performance specifications for seat belt interlock systems and their advantages/ disadvantages (including those needed to prevent defeating the system).16 The agency anticipates participation by organizations leading the development of seat belt interlock system prototypes (i.e., vehicle manufacturers and suppliers) in these research efforts. To assess the potential impacts on unbelted occupants, the agency initially plans on using occupant restraint simulation models to understand the safety implications for optimizing occupant compartments and restraint systems considering today’s regulatory requirements versus those that apply to belted occupants only. We plan to complete these research studies in 2015. V. Conclusion After carefully considering all aspects of the petition, the agency has decided to deny the petitioner’s request to allow a seat belt interlock compliance option as an alternative to the unbelted crash test requirements of FMVSS No. 208. Given the complex issues surrounding seat belt interlocks, the agency believes that it would be desirable to have additional information, beyond the 15 However, such a system cannot be considered when assessing compliance with the FMVSS and thus all protection currently required by FMVSS No. 208 to belted and unbelted occupants would remain in force. 16 This research is contingent upon the availability of seat belt interlock system prototypes. VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:54 Aug 28, 2013 Jkt 229001 supporting material provided by the petitioner, before deciding whether to pursue the requested rulemaking action. The agency lacks field data or sufficient research findings that would allow for the determination of the optimal type of seat belt interlock system as it relates to acceptance and the attributes necessary to harden against circumvention. Nor do we have information to assess the potential level of safety for belted and unbelted occupants that would result from such a rulemaking. The agency’s effort to study seat belt interlock systems is in its initial stages. Making a determination to include seat belt interlocks as an alternative compliance option to the unbelted test requirements of FMVSS No. 208 prior to completion of our research is premature. In accordance with 49 CFR Part 552, this completes the agency’s review of the petition. Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117 and 30166; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95. Issued in Washington, DC, on: August 19, 2013 under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.95. Christopher J. Bonanti, Associate Administrator for Rulemaking. [FR Doc. 2013–21128 Filed 8–28–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 [Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2012–0042; 4500030114] RIN 1018–AX13 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Jaguar Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of the public comment period. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the reopening of the public comment period on our August 20, 2012, proposed designation of critical habitat for the jaguar (Panthera onca), as revised on July 1, 2013, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This notice announces reopening of the comment period to allow all interested parties an additional opportunity to comment and submit information on the revised proposed rule, the draft economic analysis, and the draft environmental assessment. We will SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 consider all comments and information provided by the public during this comment period in preparation of a final designation of critical habitat. Accordingly, the final designation may differ from our proposal. If you submitted comments previously, you do not need to resubmit them because we have already incorporated them into the public record and will fully consider them in preparation of the final rule. DATES: The comment period for the proposed rule published August 20, 2012 (77 FR 50214), and revised July 1, 2013 (78 FR 39237) is reopened. We will consider comments received or postmarked on or before September 13, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. ADDRESSES: Document availability: You may obtain copies of the proposed rule, the revisions of July 1, 2013, the draft economic analysis, and the draft environmental assessment on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R2–ES–2012–0042 or by mail from the Arizona Ecological Services Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Written comments: You may submit written comments by one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Submit comments by searching for FWS–R2–ES–2012– 0042, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. (2) By hard copy: Submit comments by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R2– ES–2012–0042; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Fish and Wildlife Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Drive, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; by telephone (602–242–0210); or by facsimile (602–242–2513). Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. E:\FR\FM\29AUP1.SGM 29AUP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 168 (Thursday, August 29, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 53386-53390]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-21128]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. NHTSA-2013-0095]


Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

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

ACTION: Denial of petition for rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This document denies a rulemaking petition submitted by BMW 
Group, BMW of North America, LLC, to amend the Federal motor vehicle 
safety standard on occupant crash protection to permit optional 
certification using a seat belt interlock for front seat occupants as 
an alternative to the unbelted crash test requirements. The agency is 
denying the petition because the supporting material provided by the 
petitioner is not sufficient for the agency to fully evaluate the 
safety need, benefits, effectiveness, and acceptability of seat belt 
interlock systems. Furthermore, in 2012, the agency initiated the 
development of a research program on seat belt interlocks in light of 
its newly-acquired statutory authority to allow consideration of seat 
belt interlocks as a compliance option. The agency believes that making 
a determination to amend its performance standards prior to the 
completion of its research is premature.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  For Non-Legal Issues: Ms. Carla Rush, 
Office of Crashworthiness Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, 
Telephone: (202) 366-4583, Facsimile: (202) 493-2739.
    For Legal Issues: Mr. William Shakely, Office of Chief Counsel, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue 
SE., Washington, DC 20590, Telephone: (202) 366-2992, Facsimile: (202) 
366-3820.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    NHTSA's mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce 
economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Increasing seat 
belt use is one of the agency's highest priorities for carrying out 
this mission. For each percentage point gain in national seat belt 
usage, we estimate that 200 lives are saved each year. In 2012, the 
nationwide seat belt use reached a high of 86 percent for drivers and 
front seat passengers. To achieve this rate, we have relied on an array 
of agency initiatives, such as regulating and promoting the use of in-
vehicle technologies, the Click It or Ticket program \1\ and State 
primary enforcement laws, to encourage seat belt usage. Notwithstanding 
impressive gains in seat belt usage, data from the 2011 Fatality 
Analysis Reporting System (FARS) indicates that 52 percent of all

[[Page 53387]]

passenger vehicle crash fatalities were unbelted occupants.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ http://www.nhtsa.gov/ciot.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

A. History and Research of Seat Belt Interlock Systems

    From a historical perspective, the agency's goal of increasing seat 
belt usage extends back nearly to the agency's inception. In 1972, as 
an interim measure to increase seat belt use until acceptable automatic 
systems became available, the agency added a compliance option for 
passenger vehicles manufactured between August 15, 1973 and August 14, 
1975, that allowed the use of an interlock system that prevented the 
engine from starting if any front-seat occupant was not buckled up (37 
FR 3911). However, as a result of consumer non-acceptance of these 
interlock systems, Congress adopted a new provision, as part of the 
Motor Vehicle and Schoolbus Safety Amendments of 1974 (Pub. L. 93-492, 
88 Stat. 1470 (Oct. 27, 1974)). It prohibited NHTSA from requiring, or 
permitting as a compliance option \2\ a safety belt interlock designed 
to prevent starting or operating a motor vehicle if an occupant is not 
using a seat belt or a buzzer designed to indicate a seat belt is not 
in use, except a buzzer that operates only during the 8-second period 
after the ignition is turned to the ``start'' or ``on'' position (49 
U.S.C. 30124).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ We note that the statutory prohibition restricting the use 
of interlocks as an option for compliance with NHTSA standards in no 
way limited the manufacturer's freedom to place interlocks in 
vehicles. See NHTSA's 2004 interpretation letter to Mr. Bruce H. 
Carraway, Jr., Carraway Safety Belt Company at http://isearch.nhtsa.gov/files/a00473beltminder_cmc.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 1975, NHTSA funded a research study on seat belt interlock 
systems in production vehicles.\3\ The study intended to measure the 
effectiveness of the interlock system in increasing seat belt usage. 
Three separate analyses were conducted. Two involved seat belt use 
observations among rental car customers from U.S. airports and 
interviews of a subsample of non-users. The third was a field study of 
observed seat belt use and a follow-up telephone interview among 
private car owners in the general population.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ A. Westefeld and B. M. Phillips. Safety Belt Interlock 
System: Usage Survey. National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, May 1975. DOT HS 
801 594.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The field study found that occupants of model year (MY) 1973 
vehicles showed a 3-6 percent seat belt use rate, while those of MY 
1974 vehicles showed a significantly higher seat belt use rate of 41-64 
percent.\4\ However, the study also found a decline in the seat belt 
use rate among occupants of the MY 1974 vehicles as the year went on 
(e.g., in February seat belt usage was 64 percent among drivers and 
front right passengers and by November it dropped to 41 percent). This 
decline in seat belt use within the observed year was attributed to 
mechanical issues with the system as well as drivers learning how to 
defeat or circumvent the system. Telephone interviews of the vehicle 
owners found that 59 percent considered the seat belt interlocks to be 
``unfavorable.'' The proportion of vehicle owners that were categorized 
as non-users that considered the interlock systems ``unfavorable'' was 
87 percent. Furthermore, only 54 percent of the vehicle owners 
interviewed reported that they had not defeated or circumvented the 
interlock system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ Most MY 1974 vehicles were equipped with seat belt interlock 
systems.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 2001, NHTSA funded a study (through a contract with the 
Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences 
(NAS)) of the potential benefits of technologies designed to increase 
seat belt use.\5\ This study aimed to determine how drivers (at that 
time) might accept technologies designed to increase seat belt use. As 
part of this study, NHTSA conducted in-depth interviews and focus 
groups to obtain a greater understanding of the perceived effectiveness 
and acceptability of four technologies: two seat belt reminder systems 
and two interlock systems (entertainment and transmission).\6\ The NAS 
committee reviewed the available literature, held stakeholder meetings 
with key automobile manufacturers and suppliers, and reviewed the 
results of the in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted by NHTSA 
for this study.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ ``Buckling Up, Technologies to Increase Seat Belt Use,'' 
Special Report 278, Committee for the Safety Belt Technology Study, 
http://www.TRB.org, 2003.
    \6\ An entertainment interlock prevents playing the radio or 
stereo unless seat belts are buckled. A transmission interlock 
prevents putting the vehicle in gear unless seat belts are buckled.
    \7\ Bentley, J.J., Kurrus, R., & Beuse, N. ``Qualitative 
research regarding attitudes towards four technologies aimed at 
increasing safety belt use.'' (Report 2003-01) Bethesda, MD: Equals 
Three Communications. DOT HS 043 581.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Among the NAS study findings, transmission interlock systems were 
perceived to be highly effective based upon the interviews and focus 
groups conducted. More than 85 percent of respondents rated them 
effective. However, only 43 percent rated them acceptable with the 
hard-core non-users \8\ making up the highest percentage (71 percent) 
of respondents who rated the transmission interlock not acceptable. The 
recommendations from the study suggested that NHTSA and the private 
sector encourage the research and development of seat belt interlock 
systems for certain high-risk groups (e.g., drivers impaired by 
alcohol, teenage drivers) who are overrepresented in crashes. It also 
suggested that interlocks could be installed on company fleets. Other 
recommendations issued by the NAS report involved seat belt reminders 
and other strategies.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ Hard-core non-users are those who report never or rarely 
using seat belts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 2009, NHTSA published a report on a field study that evaluated a 
device that prevented drivers from shifting vehicles into gear for up 
to 8 seconds unless the seat belt was buckled.\9\ This study showed 
that a gearshift delay resulted in a significant 20 percentage-point 
increase among two samples of commercial fleet drivers. This study also 
noted that future research could investigate a complete transmission 
seat belt interlock now that seat belt use is much higher than in the 
1970s and that transmission interlocks may receive higher acceptance 
than ignition interlocks.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Pilot Tests of a Seat Belt Gearshift Delay on the Belt Use 
of Commercial Fleet (DOT HS 811 230)--Dec. 2009.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Given the history of interlocks, and the statutory prohibition 
against requiring or allowing seat belt interlocks as a compliance 
option, manufacturers have primarily focused their efforts on 
developing and introducing technologies that encourage seat belt use, 
but that are acceptable to customers, such as seat belt reminder 
systems. Such systems can be effective without being overly annoying.
    In 2012, President Obama signed into law Public Law 112-141, the 
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21, a 
transportation reauthorization bill, removed the restriction from 
permitting the use of seat belt interlocks as a compliance option. 
However, the prohibition on requiring a seat belt interlock still 
remains.
    In 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 
published its findings from a national telephone survey it conducted on 
the attitudes toward seat belt use and in-vehicle technologies for 
encouraging seat belt use. The respondents were asked about their 
support of different types of seat belt interlocks: a speed interlock, 
a transmission interlock, an entertainment system interlock, and an 
ignition interlock. The survey found that only about half of the full-
time seat belt users

[[Page 53388]]

supported the use of seat belt interlocks to encourage seat belt use 
and even fewer part-time seat belt users and non-users supported their 
use.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ D.G. Kidd, et al. ``Attitudes toward seat belt use and in-
vehicle technologies for encouraging belt use.'' Insurance Institute 
for Highway Safety, January 2013. http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/pdf/r1183.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. Unbelted Test Requirements

    Initially, the injury criteria limits in Federal Motor Vehicle 
Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208 had to be met for air bag equipped 
vehicles in frontal rigid barrier crash tests at speeds up to 48 km/h 
(30 mph), with the 50th percentile adult male dummies wearing seat 
belts, and in separate barrier crashes at those speeds with dummies 
being protected by automatic (passive) means (35 FR 16927). However, 
due in part to litigation, the passive protection requirements did not 
begin until the MY 1987 for passenger cars and MY 1995 for light trucks 
and vans. The barrier test was performed with the dummies unbelted if 
the means of passive protection was an air bag.\11\ In 1997, the agency 
amended FMVSS No. 208 to provide a temporary option for manufacturers 
to certify their vehicles to an unbelted sled test as an alternative to 
the unbelted barrier test requirement (62 FR 12960). NHTSA established 
the sled test option to address the air bag fatalities that were 
occurring at the time, and to ensure that the vehicle manufacturers 
could quickly depower all air bags so that they inflate less 
aggressively. As part of the May 2000 final rule that required advanced 
air bags, the sled test option was removed and vehicle manufacturers 
were required to meet a rigid barrier crash test with both unbelted 5th 
percentile adult female dummies and 50th percentile adult male dummies 
in a 20 mph to 25 mph rigid barrier crash test (65 FR 30680).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ On September 2, 1993, NHTSA amended FMVSS No. 208 to 
require the installation of air bags as the means of providing 
automatic crash protection (58 FR 46551). The full compliance date 
for the amended requirements was September 1, 1997, for passenger 
cars and September 1, 1998, for light trucks and vans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

II. Petition

    On October 23, 2012, BMW Group, BMW of North America, LLC, (herein 
referred to as the petitioner) submitted a petition to NHTSA to amend 
FMVSS No. 208, ``Occupant crash protection,'' to permit a certification 
option using a seat belt interlock for front seat occupants as an 
alternative to the existing unbelted crash test.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ The petitioner noted that it had initiated the action with 
the Congress to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to give the 
agency the authority to allow a seat belt interlock as a compliance 
option.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The petitioner cited several arguments in support of their request, 
including the potential benefits associated with the increased use of 
seat belts as well as the opportunity to design optimized systems for 
belted occupants. The petitioner estimated that hundreds of lives could 
be saved if FMVSS No. 208 was modified as requested and it suggested 
that the number of lives that could be saved by increasing seat belt 
use would be significant compared to other agency rulemakings (e.g., 
roof crush, ejection mitigation, tire pressure monitoring systems, 
etc.). With regard to optimizing for belted occupants, the petitioner 
noted that it was gathering additional simulation/user acceptability 
data to share with the agency, as confidential business information. 
However, the agency has not received that data to date.
    By allowing vehicles to be optimized for belted occupants, the 
petitioner claimed that vehicles will be lighter and more spacious, as 
well as more fuel efficient with lower emissions. The petitioner 
estimated that a 7 pound vehicle weight reduction (by removing knee 
bolsters) would result in carbon dioxide (CO2) savings 
between 274-406 metric tons per year and 30,850-45,744 gallons of fuel 
saved per year.
    The petitioner stated that by making interlocks a compliance 
option, there would not be any cost burden associated with this 
amendment and it would result in savings of Federal and State funds 
(e.g., expenses for emergency medical services (EMS), hospital stays, 
insurance, traffic, etc.). It also claimed that Federal funding for 
seat belt initiatives could be used to fund other programs since seat 
belt interlocks have the potential of increasing belt usage at no extra 
cost to the government.
    The petitioner identified three potential types of interlock 
systems: An ignition interlock, a transmission interlock, and a speed-
limiting interlock. The petitioner noted that an ignition interlock 
would likely have low customer acceptance, based on past reactions, and 
have other disadvantages (e.g., does not allow remote starting, 
encourages defeat mechanisms, etc.). The petitioner stated that a 
transmission interlock has the benefits of an ignition interlock, but 
allows the driver to warm up the vehicle or simply sit in the vehicle 
with the heat or air conditioning running. The petitioner believed that 
a speed-limiting interlock, that allows the vehicle to drive at low 
speeds (ideal for short distance tasks, such as driving to a mail box, 
towing situations, etc.), would be the least annoying and most accepted 
type of interlock.
    The petitioner further expressed its preference for a speed-
limiting interlock system that focuses on front occupants only. It 
stated that monitoring rear seat belt usage would be problematic 
because occupant detection in the rear would prevent consumers from 
carrying cargo on the rear seats, which would likely result in consumer 
backlash.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ Occupant detection systems that rely on weight sensors 
would have problems distinguishing occupants from cargo, which could 
be a source of annoyance for drivers if cargo is triggering the 
interlock system and not an unbuckled occupant.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

III. Analysis of Petition

    The agency is denying the petitioner's request to allow a seat belt 
interlock compliance option as an alternative to unbelted crash test 
requirements of FMVSS No. 208. Removing the protection offered to 
unbelted occupants would be unprecedented for NHTSA considering 
unbelted crash test requirements date back to the 1970s (35 FR 
16927).\14\ To do so without a sufficient scientific basis could lead 
to unintended consequences and potentially negative outcomes. Given the 
complex issues surrounding seat belt interlocks, the agency believes 
that it would be desirable to have additional information beyond that 
provided by the petitioner before deciding whether to pursue the 
requested rulemaking action. The agency would like to evaluate the 
safety case for rulemaking on this issue objectively and with a 
reasonable degree of certainty. However, the agency does not have 
sufficient information, at this time, to perform such an evaluation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Due to many years of litigation, the passive protection 
requirements did not begin until MY 1987 for passenger cars and MY 
1995 for light trucks and vans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Although there may be potential benefits of a seat belt interlock 
system as a means of increasing seat belt use, as suggested by the 
petitioner, the agency does not believe this is sufficient 
justification, without additional information, for the requested 
rulemaking. There are many other important considerations that we would 
like addressed before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking. Among such 
considerations would be user acceptability and potential disbenefits. 
The following discussion provides further analysis of the justification 
provided by the petitioner as well as other key factors that the agency 
would want to consider before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking.

[[Page 53389]]

    The petitioner's main arguments for permitting the use of seat belt 
interlock systems as a compliance option are that it would increase 
seat belt use rates among front seat occupants and allow manufacturers 
to optimize their vehicle interior and safety restraint designs for 
belted occupants. It also mentioned the added benefit of allowing 
manufacturers the design freedom to create innovative lightweight 
vehicle concepts.
    The agency agrees with the theoretical premise that a seat belt 
interlock system could have the potential to increase seat belt use 
rates. This is consistent with our past research. However, the degree 
to which seat belt use will increase is not clear and is likely 
dependent on multiple factors. Since interlocks have not been present 
in the vehicle fleet since the 1970s, it is difficult to make an 
accurate assessment of their effectiveness and acceptance at this time. 
We cannot assume the effects will be the same as they were in the past. 
Given today's 86 percent seat belt use rate, if interlocks were re-
introduced into the vehicle fleet, we would not experience an eight-
fold increase in seat belt use that the 1975 study on the interlock 
systems reported.
    Furthermore, the petitioner failed to address the acceptance of 
interlock systems, given their historical background. The IIHS's recent 
survey suggested that the acceptance among part-time and non-users of 
these systems has not improved over the years. This lack of acceptance 
among the types of occupants that an interlock is intended to target 
leads to the reasonable assumption that such occupants may attempt to 
disable the interlocks. This is supported by the research findings and 
the real world historical evidence of consumer backlash in the 1970s, 
which resulted in motorists finding ways to disconnect or circumvent 
their interlock system. The petitioner does not address how such a 
system would be hardened to prevent it from being disabled or 
circumvented, nor the expected actual effectiveness of the systems 
based on the level of hardening.
    Before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking, NHTSA would want such 
information in order to evaluate the technologies available to limit 
the possibility that seat belt interlock systems could be circumvented 
or disabled and to evaluate potential test procedures to determine that 
a vehicle certified by this option could not be circumvented or 
disabled and the costs and expected effectiveness of added technologies 
to ensure that. The petitioner did not provide specifics of how any of 
the three types of systems it described would be hardened to prevent 
circumvention or any means by which the agency could ensure the system 
could not be defeated.
    Another concern with an interlock system that is not universally 
effective (i.e., results in some remainder of occupants unbelted) is 
the potential risk of harm to those unbelted occupants. By allowing 
manufacturers to opt out of complying with the unbelted frontal crash 
test requirements, it potentially puts unbelted occupants at an 
increased risk of harm. Before deciding whether to pursue rulemaking, 
the agency would want to determine and quantify the potential 
disbenefit to those remaining unbelted occupants in comparison to the 
protection they are now offered. The petition lacked an analysis of 
this issue.
    The petitioner instead opined that the current unbelted test 
requirements may result in a reduction of protection to belted front 
seat occupants. It claimed that belted occupant protection can be 
optimized if the unbelted tests were removed; however, no data were 
submitted to substantiate this claim. The agency is further unaware of 
any increased risk of injury to belted front occupants as a result of 
vehicle optimization being done to meet both the unbelted and belted 
crash protection requirements. Without detailed information on the 
design changes the petitioner envisions that vehicle manufacturers will 
make in order to offer better protection to belted front occupants in 
the absence of an unbelted test requirement and the associated 
quantified benefits, the agency is unable to assess the validity of the 
petitioner's claim.
    The petitioner also suggested that by permitting the use of a seat 
belt interlock system as a compliance option, manufacturers could 
optimize their vehicles to be ``lighter, more spacious and fuel 
efficient.'' The petitioner stated that manufacturers are known to 
modify the vehicle interior designs and oversize the restraint systems 
in order to meet the unbelted frontal occupant crash protection 
criteria. It estimated that by granting its petition, a 7 pound vehicle 
weight reduction (by removing knee bolsters) would result in 
CO2 and fuel savings.
    We presume that by suggesting the removal of a restraint system 
component, such as the knee bolster, the implication is that if there 
were no unbelted test, the knee bolster could be removed. However, it 
is unclear to the agency how removal of the knee bolster helps optimize 
the protection offered to belted occupants, as the petitioner 
suggested. It is also important to understand the extent of the safety 
reduction, if removal of components like knee bolsters degrades the 
protection of those occupants that might remain unbelted.
    The agency acknowledges that equipment added to vehicles to comply 
with safety standards may increase vehicle weight, and therefore have a 
secondary, but generally very small, effect on vehicle fuel economy, 
and, in some cases, decreased passenger compartment space. However, 
when considering a petition to exempt a manufacturer from complying 
with an occupant safety standard, the agency's first consideration 
would be the effects of the proposed exemption on occupant safety. 
Furthermore, the petitioner's requested amendments will not necessarily 
lead to fuel economy gains that could be attributed to this rulemaking 
action since there is no accompanying requirement on the part of the 
vehicle manufacturer to achieve these fuel economy benefits.
    The petitioner stated that by making interlocks a compliance option 
there would be no resulting cost burden. It also claimed there would be 
savings to society associated with reduction in expenses for such 
things as EMS, hospitals, insurance, and traffic. It also claimed that 
Federal funding for seat belt initiatives could be used elsewhere. The 
agency has not traditionally estimated the cost burden to industry for 
compliance options because the agency's focus is on whether the various 
options will result in similar benefits. To the extent cost burden 
would be considered, it is only one of many factors the agency must 
consider in allowing an option. As we expressed above, the petition is 
lacking other important information that the agency would want in order 
to determine the merits of the petitioner's request.
    As to the petitioner's claims of societal cost savings, we note 
that the costs related to emergency medical services, hospital stays 
and insurance would all be captured in our assessment of injury 
reduction related to any increase in seat belt use. As to any cost 
saving related to traffic reduction, we do not expect that an interlock 
would prevent a crash from occurring, thus the assumption of a cost 
saving related to this factor is speculative. Finally, as to the 
claimed potential savings related to funding of seat belt use 
initiatives, we note the following observations. First, even if a seat 
belt interlock compliance option were allowed, it would only affect new 
vehicles and there would be many legacy vehicles in the fleet without 
interlocks. Second, since it would be a compliance option, the extent 
to which this option will be

[[Page 53390]]

selected is unknown, again potentially leaving vehicles in the fleet 
without interlocks. Thus, we predict that seat belt use initiatives 
would need to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
    Finally, we wish to make clear that the denial of this petition 
does not restrict the petitioner, or any other manufacturer, from 
voluntarily providing a seat belt interlock system in their 
vehicles.\15\ In fact, such a voluntary implementation would likely 
yield important real world data about interlock systems that could be 
utilized by the agency in the future.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ However, such a system cannot be considered when assessing 
compliance with the FMVSS and thus all protection currently required 
by FMVSS No. 208 to belted and unbelted occupants would remain in 
force.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

IV. NHTSA Planned Seat Belt Interlock Systems Research

    The agency is in the process of developing a research program on 
seat belt interlock systems in an effort to understand the potential 
for improving occupant safety in light of the agency's newly acquired 
statutory authority to permit interlocks as a compliance option. The 
human factors research program will gather data to help determine the 
effectiveness and acceptance of seat belt interlock systems as well as 
discuss potential minimum performance specifications for seat belt 
interlock systems and their advantages/disadvantages (including those 
needed to prevent defeating the system).\16\ The agency anticipates 
participation by organizations leading the development of seat belt 
interlock system prototypes (i.e., vehicle manufacturers and suppliers) 
in these research efforts. To assess the potential impacts on unbelted 
occupants, the agency initially plans on using occupant restraint 
simulation models to understand the safety implications for optimizing 
occupant compartments and restraint systems considering today's 
regulatory requirements versus those that apply to belted occupants 
only. We plan to complete these research studies in 2015.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ This research is contingent upon the availability of seat 
belt interlock system prototypes.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

V. Conclusion

    After carefully considering all aspects of the petition, the agency 
has decided to deny the petitioner's request to allow a seat belt 
interlock compliance option as an alternative to the unbelted crash 
test requirements of FMVSS No. 208. Given the complex issues 
surrounding seat belt interlocks, the agency believes that it would be 
desirable to have additional information, beyond the supporting 
material provided by the petitioner, before deciding whether to pursue 
the requested rulemaking action. The agency lacks field data or 
sufficient research findings that would allow for the determination of 
the optimal type of seat belt interlock system as it relates to 
acceptance and the attributes necessary to harden against 
circumvention. Nor do we have information to assess the potential level 
of safety for belted and unbelted occupants that would result from such 
a rulemaking.
    The agency's effort to study seat belt interlock systems is in its 
initial stages. Making a determination to include seat belt interlocks 
as an alternative compliance option to the unbelted test requirements 
of FMVSS No. 208 prior to completion of our research is premature.
    In accordance with 49 CFR Part 552, this completes the agency's 
review of the petition.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117 and 30166; 
delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on: August 19, 2013 under authority 
delegated in 49 CFR 1.95.
Christopher J. Bonanti,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 2013-21128 Filed 8-28-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P