Mr. Mark Merchant

336 Sprague Road # 104

Berea, OH 44017

Dear Mr. Merchant:

This letter responds to your note asking how to submit an idea for traffic safety on vehicles.  Your device would be an addendum to the taillight currently used on most vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues safety standards for motor vehicles and equipment. Any interested person may recommend that NHTSA adopt a new standard or amend an existing one. Such recommendations are formally submitted via a petition for rulemaking. The requirements for petitioning for rulemaking are set forth in 49 CFR 552.4. The petition must be in the English language, the word "Petition" must be in the heading preceding the text, and the petition must set forth facts which it is claimed establish that an amendment is necessary, set forth a brief description of the substance of the amendment which it is claimed should be issued, and contain the name and address of the petitioner.

Petitions must be sent to:


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, W41-307

Washington, DC 20590

We have a specific policy with respect to evaluating requests related to signal lamps, which include taillights. We believe that motor vehicle safety is best promoted by standardization of lighting signals. As you might imagine, the agency is frequently presented with new lighting ideas intended to enhance safety. Many of these are not allowable under Standard No. 108 because of deviations from the performance of the lighting equipment mandated by the standard. These ideas are often submitted without proof of their effectiveness. On December 13, 1996, we published a Federal Register notice that articulated the agency's general policy regarding new signal lighting ideas and how that policy would apply in the

case of four specific brake signaling ideas (61 FR 65510). In a subsequent notice, published on November 4, 1998 (63 FR 59482), we expressed our intent to participate in efforts to develop an international consensus on how to handle new signaling ideas. We went on to say that, until a new international consensus emerges, we will follow the policy described in the December 1996 notice. I enclose a copy of both the 1996 and 1998 notices.

Of particular interest to you will be the discussion on p. 65517 of the December 1996 notice in which we advised inventors to provide our Office of Research and Development with candidates for future agency research. We summarized our policy as follows:

In summary, a petitioner seeking to persuade the agency to mandate a lighting invention for new vehicles bears the initial burden of establishing its safety value and cost effectiveness. The burden for those inventors seeking to make an invention optional is to convince the agency that the invention will not impair the effectiveness of required lighting equipment through creating ambiguity or negatively affecting standardization of signals.

Before submitting any invention to the agency, we urge you to carefully read the enclosed Federal Register notices, and make sure that you are submitting the kind of data necessary for us to evaluate your petition. Furthermore, you should be aware of agency rules regarding disclosure of communications. If you are submitting information you would like to keep confidential, you must follow the instructions laid out in 49 CFR Part 512, Confidential Business Information.

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

Sincerely yours,

Anthony M. Cooke

Chief Counsel