On October 15, 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rules that hearse manufacturers no longer have to install anchors for child-safety seats in their vehicles. In 1999, to prevent parents from incorrectly installing the seats using only their cars’ seat belts, the agency had required all carmakers to put the standardized anchors on every passenger seat in every vehicle they built. Though it seemed rather odd, most hearse-builders complied with the rule and many thousands of their vehicles incorporated baby-seat latches on their front and back passenger seats.
However, the year after the agency issued the rule, one of the largest “funeral coach” manufacturers in the United States petitioned for an exemption. “Since a funeral coach is a single-purpose vehicle, transporting body and casket,” the petition said, “children do not ride in the front seat.” In fact, typically that seat is empty—after all, most people do try to avoid riding in hearses. On October 15, the agency agreed: All funeral coaches (now officially defined as “a vehicle that contains only one row of occupant seats, is designed exclusively for transporting a body and casket and that is equipped with features to secure a casket in place during the operation of the vehicle”) were permanently exempt from all child-safety provisions. According to this formulation, those rare hearses that do have rear seats are not technically funeral coaches; therefore, they are subject to the same child-restraint rules as every other carmaker.