Jan 11, 2013
Dear Mr. Crowell,
This responds to your letters to Administrator David Strickland, former Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford, and several other officials of the National Highway Traffic Sfatey Administration (NHTSA), which we received in October of 1012. Your letters have been referred to my office for reply. You ask for help “correcting the violations found in automobile interior partition performance” in police cruisers, limousines, utility vans and taxicabs. The partitions separate the front seat occupants (particularly the driver) from back seat passengers, primarily for security reasons. I will refer to these as “security partitions.”
From the enclosures that you sent, I understand that you believe that security partition can cause harm to drivers and passengers and should not be installed in vehicles. You have written NHTSA on a number of occasions since 1984 asking about the application of NHTSA regulations to security partitions. Several offices of the agency have responded over the years, including this office. On September 13th 1985, then Chief Counsel Jeffrey R. Miller sent you a latter explaining how the agencies requirements apply to security partitions.
You state in a recent letter that NHTSA has been inconsistent in responding to you and that you believe that a may 2nd, 2012 letter from the Office of Defects Investigation contradicts earlier agency letters to you about security partitions. The 2012 letter highly focused on answering your inquiry from the point of view of the defects investigators. The 1985 letter to you from the Chief Counsels’ office should serve to provide an overall view of our requirements as applied to security partitions. In that letter we noted that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 205 applies to such partitions. Since that letter we have issued various FMVSS’s, including FMVSS No. 226 (Ejection Mitigatiion), which specifically excludes certain vehicles that have such partitions, including the types of vehicles you mention. We regret if our letters have caused any confusion.
In your current letters, and judging from your past letters to NHTSA on this subject, it appears that you would like the agency to test and possible remove the security partitions in the vehicles listed above. As to the merits of the security partitions now in place, we were unable to verify your letter’s references to the harm caused by security partitions. You are welcome to submit any actual data you have supporting your claims. On the other hand, we acknowledge that security partitions have a place in protecting the vehicle operator from assailants. After considering the available information, including the possible trade-offs to the safety and security of the operator in the absence of a security partition, we regret to inform you that testing security partitions that are now in taxicabs and police vehicles is not an initiative the agency will pursue at this time.
In your letter, you ask a question about the New York City Taxi and Limousines Commission’s (TLC’s) “Taxi of Tomorrow” program. We suggest that you contact the TLC directly for information about the test program.
O. Kevin Vincent
 In a September 19th 2005 letter to you from this office, we note that the 1985 letter to you has not substantively changed. We explain that the “Render Inoperative” provision in the letter was recodified at 49 U.S.C S30122, but no substantive change was made to the provision.