Piper & Marbury
2 Penn Center Plaza, Suite 1500
Philadelphia, PA 19102-1715
Dear Mr. Smith:
This responds to your letter asking whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers automotive and motorcycle braking systems to be "safety devices." As explained below, the agency considers such systems to be items of motor vehicle equipment.
Please note that neither the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (formerly at 15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq. and recently codified in Title 49 of the U.S. Code) nor the agency's regulations in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations use the phrase "safety device." Rather, the statute refers to "motor vehicles" and "motor vehicle equipment." Specifically, motor vehicle equipment is defined, in relevant part, as
any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured or any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of such system, part, or component or as any accessory, or addition to the motor vehicle ...
Under this definition, NHTSA would consider an automotive or motorcycle braking system to be an item of motor vehicle equipment.
Please note that the Federal motor vehicle safety standards are issued to meet the need for safety. For example, the purpose of Standard No. 105, which regulates hydraulic brake systems of passenger cars and other specified vehicles, is "to insure safe braking performance under normal and emergency conditions." See S2 of Standard No. 105. Similarly, the purpose of Standard No. 122, which regulates motorcycle brake systems, is "to insure safe motorcycle braking performance under normal and emergency conditions." See S2 of Standard No. 122.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Marvin Shaw of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel