704 Edgewater Drive
Dayton, TN 37321
Gilbert Lenkiewicz of Cleveland asked that we respond to you with respect to his letter to us of March 14, 1996, requesting an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108. He asked whether it is permissible to add a flashing strobe light into the existing assembly for the center highmounted stop lamp, as he is investigating "the possibility of marketing this idea to the general public as an after-market, owner-installed addition in kit form."
The answer is that Federal law does not prohibit owners from adding a strobe light into the center stop lamp of their vehicles but it does not allow other persons to add the strobe light. However, you should consult local laws to see whether such a modification is permissible because local laws govern the legality of owner modifications.
To explain, were the strobe light to be added to the center lamp as original equipment, before the first sale of the vehicle, it will create a noncompliance with Standard No. 108 which requires all stop lamps to be steady burning. Whether it is permissible to add the strobe light after initial sale is governed by Title 49 United States Code Section 30122 "Making safety devices and elements inoperative." Under this section, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are prohibited from "making inoperative" Federally-mandated safety equipment such as the center stop lamp. Because addition of the strobe lamp would create a noncompliance in a new motor vehicle, and its operation could draw attention away from the vehicle's other required stop lamps, we view its addition to a vehicle in use as making this equipment inoperative within the intent of Section 30122. The prohibition does not extend to vehicle owners, however, and an owner may install the strobe light in the center stop lamp of his or her vehicle without violating Section 30122. But the seller of the device may not do so.
Even though the owner may install the strobe light under Federal law, the acceptability of using it is governed by the laws of the individual states. We are unable to advise you on state law, and recommend that you consult for an opinion the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22303.
If you have any further questions, you may consult Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
NCC-20 ZTVinson:mar:3/25/96:62992:OCC 11684 cc: NCC-0l Subj/Chron interps. std. 108, VSA 30122 ztv; 11684; U:\ncc20\interp\108\11684.ztv