Mr. Larry Medina
101 East Whipple Extension St.
Dear Mr. Medina:
This responds to your request for an interpretation concerning National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requirements that your product, the "Emergency Vehicle Warning," must meet. Your product is designed to provide to drivers visual warning of the approach of emergency vehicles.
Your letter describes the "Emergency Vehicle Warning" as follows:
The concept is simple, sensors are placed on the outside of a car, sensors detect the sound of a siren (emergency vehicle), sensors then transmit a signal to a receiver, this receiver is placed on the instrument panel or rear view mirror or visor. The receiver is approximately 2 inches long and 1/12 wide with two or more light emitting diodes (lights). Its placement can be clipped or mounted with adhesive tape. Once the receiver detects a signal from the sensors, the lights flash giving the driver a visual alert of an approaching emergency vehicle.
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that you intend the "Emergency Vehicle Warning" to be provided on new motor vehicles and to be installed as aftermarket equipment. In my response to you, I will assume that the outside sensors described in your letter do not incorporate any type of lighting.
By way of background information, NHTSA is authorized to issue the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards.
We have previously addressed motor vehicle equipment similar to the "Emergency Vehicle Warning."Enclosed is an interpretation letter of May 4, 2000 to Mr. Lou McKenna (McKenna letter).
The McKenna letter addressed a system inside the vehicle that consisted of an audible alarm and a flashing red display of the words "Emergency Vehicle." The alarm and the red display are triggered by a signal from an emergency vehicle. We make clear in the McKenna letter that:
None of the laws and regulations that we administer preclude a flashing red message on the instrument panel or an audible siren in or on a motor vehicle. This means that the legality of such devices must be determined under state and local laws.
Similarly, in your case, none of NHTSAs laws or regulations would preclude a receiver with light-emitting diodes to be placed on an instrument panel, interior rearview mirror or visor, if installed in such a way that it would not interfere with any required safety function. NHTSA has not issued any FMVSSs that are directly applicable to your product. However, something placed on the reflective surface of a mirror could affect its compliance with the field of view requirements of FMVSS No. 111, Rearview mirrors.
If your "Emergency Vehicle Warning" were installed by a vehicle manufacturer as original equipment, i.e., on a new vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer would have to certify that the vehicle with the product installed complies with all applicable FMVSSs. Also, if your product were installed by a motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business on a new or used vehicle, that commercial entity would be prohibited by 49 U.S.C. 30122 from knowingly making inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in the vehicle in compliance with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard. When your product is installed by the vehicle owner, our safety standards would not affect the sale or installation of your product.
Beyond compliance with relevant Federal safety standards, manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment have additional responsibilities, including a requirement to notify purchasers about safety-related defects and to provide a remedy free of charge, even if their equipment is not covered by a safety standard. 49 U.S.C. 30118-30120.
In addition, you should be aware that other governmental entities may have authority over your product. States have the authority to regulate the use and licensing of vehicles operating within their jurisdictions. Therefore, you may wish to check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in any State in which the equipment will be sold or used regarding any such requirements.
I have enclosed a fact sheet entitled "Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment." I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.