U.S. federal regulations that define the requirements for the design, durability, construction, and performance of motor vehicles

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS)

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are a set of U.S. federal regulations that prescribe the design, durability, construction, and performance requirements for motor vehicles. These standards play a vital role in minimizing the risk of fatalities, injuries, and accidents caused by faulty equipment. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), oversees the regulation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. These standards serve as the U.S. equivalent to United Nations regulations developed by the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. Canada has its own set of rules known as the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), which share some similarities with FMVSS in terms of content and structure. 

FMVSS covers various safety categories, including crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability.  

Crash avoidance standards include 

  • encompass controls and displays
  • transmission systems 
  • windshield defrosting and wiping systems 
  • brake systems 
  • lamps and reflective devices 
  • tires and rims
  • warning devices 
  • theft protection 
  • hood latch systems 
  • accelerator control systems 
  • power-operated window systems 
  • electronic stability control systems 


Crashworthiness standards focus on 

  • occupant crash protection 
  • head restraints 
  • door locks and retention 
  • steering control systems 
  • impact protection 
  • seating systems 
  • seat belt assemblies and anchorages 
  • windshield mounting and glazing materials 
  • child restraint systems 
  • roof crush resistance 
  • bus and school bus protections 


Post-crash survivability standards include 

  • address fuel system integrity 
  • flammability of interior materials 
  • compressed natural gas fuel container integrity 
  • electric-powered vehicles.  


Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards regulations are of great importance as they apply to all motor vehicles and regulated motor vehicle equipment manufactured for sale in the U.S., ensuring that vehicles are designed with the safety of drivers and passengers in mind and equipped with reliable components. While these standards establish minimum safety requirements, many manufacturers go beyond them to enhance the safety and comfort of their vehicles. Advanced safety features such as pedestrian detection systems and lane departure warnings can be found in luxury cars, provided there are no regulations restricting their implementation.