Glenn Dubin, Assistant Attorney General

Office of General Counsel

District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles

95 M Street, SW

Suite 300

Washington, DC 20024-2522

Dear Mr. Dubin:

This responds to your email regarding registration of low-speed vehicles (LSVs) in the District of Columbia. Specifically, you suggested that a DC law requiring that vehicles display a certification of compliance may cause a problem with the registration of LSVs. Based on the information contained in your email, we do not believe that the registration of LSVs will cause difficulties in the District of Columbia.

Let us begin by stating that this office has no special knowledge or expertise with respect the laws of the individual States or the District of Columbia. Our answer will address only the requirements of the laws and regulations administered by this agency.

By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). LSVs are motor vehicles and are thus subject to regulation by the FMVSSs. FMVSS No. 500, Low-Speed Vehicles, specifies requirements for LSVs (which references FMVSS No. 205, Glazing Materials, and FMVSS No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies).  

All motor vehicles are subject to the Federal standards unless they are specifically exempted (see 49 U.S.C. 30112). Furthermore, like all other motor vehicles, under 49 U.S.C. 30115, manufacturers of LSVs must certify that the vehicles they produce comply with all applicable motor vehicle safety standards (see 49 CFR 567.4(g)(5)).

The reason that manufacturers do not certify that LSVs meet most FMVSSs is because most of the FMVSSs do not apply to LSVs. FMVSS No. 500 is the only FMVSS (along with potions of FMVSS No. 205 and 209) that applies to LSVs. Therefore, a manufacturer can certify that an LSV meets all applicable FMVSSs by certifying that it complies with those requirements.

You stated that the District of Columbia requires that vehicles must display a manufacturers certification of compliance, attesting that the vehicle complies with federal safety standards for use of public roads, streets, and highways. Properly-certified LSVs are capable of displaying such a certification.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel