Manager of Government Relations
Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
P.O. Box 25252
Santa Ana, CA 92718-2016
Dear Mr. Shetler:
This responds to your letter of February 2, 1995, asking whether Safety Standards Nos. 108 and 123 permit a motorcycle turn signal pilot indicator to be green.
You have noted that, under Table III of Standard No. 108, SAE J588 NOV84 is the appropriate standard that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has incorporated by reference for motorcycle turn signal lamps. You have further noted that the SAE standard specifies requirements for turn signal pilot indicators if the front turn signal lamps are not readily visible to the driver. Finally, paragraph 22.214.171.124 of SAE J588 specifies that the indicator, if located on the outside of the vehicle, should emit a yellow-colored light. On the other hand, Standard No. 123, which specifies requirements for turn signal lamp identification, does not specify a color for turn signal pilot indicators.
You believe that SAE J588 was written with passenger cars in mind and that its color and area requirements are specified because the location of an outside indicator lamp is further away than a lamp located inside the vehicle on the instrument panel. You also believe that Standard No. 123 does not need to address distance from the driver's eye because the turn signal lamp will always be within a reasonable distance from the driver's eye. Thus, you have concluded that any pilot lamp color would be acceptable.
We have reviewed specifications of both the SAE and Standard No. 123. SAE J588 NOV84 Turn Signal Lamps for Use on Motor Vehicles Less Than 2032 MM in Overall Width is incorporated by reference in Standard No. 108, and, under Table III, is the standard specified for motorcycle turn signal lamps. Because paragraph S5.1.1 of Standard No. 108 does not contain a section modifying the applicability of J588 to motorcycles, all the requirements of J588 apply to motorcycles, including
turn signal pilot indicators and their color. All that Standard No. 123 does, through Table III, is to specify the shape of the turn signal indicator. It is silent as to the color of the indicator.
We believe that you are correct in your conclusion that J588 was not written with motorcycles in mind, at least for two-wheeled motorcycles such as Kawasaki makes. Two colors are prescribed by SAE J588, the choice of which depends on the location of the indicator. Under paragraph 126.96.36.199, a green-colored light "with a minimum area of 18 sq. mm." must be used "if the illuminated indicator is located inside the vehicle." Under 188.8.131.52 a yellow-colored light with "a minimum projected illuminated area of 60 sq. mm." must be used "if the illuminated indicators are located on the outside of the vehicle, for example on the front fenders." Since two-wheeled motorcycles do not have enclosed cabins, all references to "inside" and "outside" the vehicle are inapposite.
Since you brought this matter to our attention, we have conducted an informal survey of the color of turn signal indicators on motorcycles sold in the United States. We find that the predominant color is amber, though Harley-Davidson, accounting for 12% of the market, uses green. We view the use of either color as in accord with J588. Therefore, if Kawasaki wishes to change its indicator color from amber to green, it will not violate Standard No. 108 by doing so.
As J588's color specifications are coupled with those for the minimum illuminated area of the display, and you have not raised the question of an appropriate size for a green turn signal indicator, we call your attention to paragraph S5.2.2 of Standard No. 123 which requires that the display for turn signal lamps and other equipment "be visible to a seated operator under daylight conditions."
If you have any further questions, Taylor Vinson of this office will be glad to answer them for you (202- 366-5263).
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:108 d:5/3/95