Mr. Steven Crowell
P.O. Box 303
Eastham, MA 02642-0303
Dear Mr. Crowell:
This responds to your letter concerning the permissibility of installing partitions between the front and rear seats in police vehicles. You ask whether installing a steel safety cage would be considered a violation of the "make inoperative" provision of 30122 of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.). From our records of interpretations we have issued in the past, we see that you are familiar with this agencys requirements and have inquired into this area before. (NHTSA wrote you about this subject on September 13, 1985. A copy of our previous letter to you is enclosed.)
Our basic requirements have not significantly changed since our earlier letter to you. The "render inoperative" provision of 15 U.S.C. 108(a)(2)(A) was recodified as 49 U.S.C. 30122, but no substantive change was made to the provision. As explained in our earlier letter, the entities listed in 30122 must not knowingly make inoperative the compliance of vehicles with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard. The make inoperative provision does not apply to individual owners who modify their own vehicles. Thus, a police department may modify its own vehicles without regard to 30101. As a general matter, NHTSA encourages vehicle owners not to alter their vehicles in a manner that degrades the overall safety of the vehicle.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact us.
Stephen P. Wood
Acting Chief Counsel