Neon Riders of America, Inc.
521 Copeland Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
Dear Mr. Farhat:
We have received your letter of July 5, 1994, with respect to the legality of neon lighting that your company manufactures for installation on the undercarriage of motor vehicles. You report that some users have been cited by local law enforcement authorities, and state that there has been some confusion as to the legality of this lighting. You ask for our views.
This agency establishes the Federal motor vehicle safety standards which must be met from the time a motor vehicle is manufactured up until its sale to its first purchaser for purposes other than resale. Standard No. 108 specifies the lighting equipment that is required when vehicles are manufactured. Lighting equipment that is not required is permissible if it does not impair the effectiveness of the required equipment. The new car dealer is responsible for ensuring that any lighting equipment that it adds before the sale of the vehicle does not impair the effectiveness of lighting equipment that is required by the standard. The initial determination of whether an impairment exists is made by the person responsible for adding the equipment. NHTSA will not question this determination unless it is clearly erroneous.
If the lighting equipment is added after the vehicle's sale by a manufacturer, dealer, distributor, or motor vehicle repair business, it is subject to the restriction that it not "knowingly make inoperative any part" of a lamp that has been installed in accordance with Standard No. 108.
Supplementary motor vehicle lighting equipment, whether added before or after initial sale of the vehicle, is subject to the laws of States in which the vehicle is operated, even if the equipment is not prohibited under Federal law. State laws may vary and this is the reason for the confusion.
With respect to neon lights, we are aware of aftermarket installations of neon lights on the underside of vehicles that illuminate the pavement below. If such lamps create glare that distracts another motorist from perceiving, for example, the turn signals in use, we would consider that an impairment and a partially making inoperative within the meaning of those terms. We are unable to advise you on State laws regarding the use of neon lights on the underside of vehicles, and suggest that you write for an opinion to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22203.
NHTSA would like manufacturers of this equipment to be aware that devices such as neon light systems which use high voltage may provide an ignition source for vehicle fires in the event of a crash. The agency would be concerned if undercarriage lighting in use causes or contributes to the severity of post-crash vehicle fires.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel