The Syndicate, LLC
West Bloomfield, MI 48325-0793
Dear Mr. McCarthy:
This is in reply to your letter of February 22, 1996, to Barry Felrice of this agency with respect to your "intermittent daytime running lights" invention.
The invention "is intended primarily for the aftermarket" where "vehicles are without the OEM installed DRL." You wish to know whether it is regulated by Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, whether " a waiver from NHTSA could be obtained to permit on the road testing" if not under Standard No. 108, "or if there is any other direction to take to achieve the desired end result to support the patent." The system consists of front and rear mounted strobe lamps which flash 45 times a minute.
Your system would not be allowed as original motor vehicle equipment under Standard No. 108 because this standard does not permit supplementary lighting equipment such as your invention to flash. Aftermarket equipment is regulated by Standard No. 108 only if it is equipment intended to replace the lighting equipment with which a vehicle was originally equipped pursuant to the requirements of Standard No. 108. This is not the intended purpose of your invention. Consequently, Standard No. 108 does not regulate your invention. However, it is subject to the prohibitions of Title 49 United States Code Section 30122 Making safety devices and elements inoperative. Under this section, a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business "may not knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle" pursuant to an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard.
The question, then, is whether the operation of a flashing strobe lamp would affect the purpose of the required lighting equipment, which is to convey signals and to mark the vehicle. It is our considered opinion that a flashing strobe lamp, surely a novelty, would distract other drivers, at least momentarily, from stop signals and turn signals, and, in that sense, make them "inoperative." Section 30122 then would prohibit manufacturers, dealers, distributors, and motor vehicle repair businesses from installing your invention.
The prohibition does not extend to the vehicle owner, and there may be some purchasers with the expertise necessary to install your system on their vehicles. In this event, operation of the system is regulated by the individual states. It is our impression that many states restrict the use of strobe lights to emergency vehicles. If you wish to know more about state laws, we recommend that you contact the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22303.
Although we have authority to establish regulations under Section 30122, we have not done so, and, in the absence of this, have no general authority to waive its prohibitions. We have no other suggestions for you. If you have further questions, you may contact Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel