Mr. Walter E. Ellis
51 Silver Maple Way
Cincinnati, OH 45246

Dear Mr. Ellis:

This Office has received your letter of June 17, 1997, to the Office of Civil Rights of Handicapped, Department of Health, Chicago.

You are concerned about glare caused by upper beams of headlamps used during daylight hours, and believe that this deprives you of "the same civil rights of unrestricted vision" as would occur for wheelchair users were wheelchair ramps for stairs removed. You have asked for the procedure to exercise your civil rights and to correct the problem. You have also asked for a copy of "the law for the Civil Rights of the Handicapped."

This agency establishes the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which apply to the manufacture of motor vehicles. One of these, Standard No. 108, covers motor vehicle lighting. After evaluating data from Scandinavian countries which indicated that daytime use of headlamps had the potential to reduce vehicle crashes, and subsequent to Canada's requiring them on all new vehicles sold there, we amended Standard No. 108 to permit a vehicle manufacturer to install "daytime running lamps" (DRL). Thus, the original intent of allowing DRLs was for its potential safety benefit.

Under the American DRL standard, a manufacturer may use any pair of front lamps for the DRL feature, other than parking lamps (too small to be effective) or fog lamps (too bright). If the manufacturer chooses to use the headlamps as a DRL, either the upper or lower beam may be used. The lower beam DRL may be operated either at full or reduced intensity, but a DRL using the upper beam must be operated at reduced intensity as you have noted. As we are beginning to learn from the increasing numbers of vehicles on the road with DRLs, DRLs on some vehicles have resulted in a number of complaints of glare. I assure you that we are aware of these concerns and that we are reviewing possible ways of addressing them.

You might also be interested to know that the owner of a vehicle with DRLs has the right to have the system disconnected. However, the owner cannot have the dealer otherwise modify the performance of the DRL system as installed.

Regarding your assertion that your civil rights may have been violated, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794 and 794(a), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132, prohibit discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability, by reason of such disability. Specifically, these laws prohibit discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, any program or activity conducted by an Executive agency, or any services, programs or activities of a public entity. The term "public entity" includes any State or local government or any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government.

If you believe there has been discrimination on the basis of your disability, you may file a complaint directly with the Department of Justice, who will refer it to an agency of the Federal government that has jurisdiction over the matter. Complaints must be filed no later than 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination. Complaints may be filed on DOJ Form ADA-II No. 1190-007 (which may be requested by calling 202 514-0301) and should be forwarded to:

    U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    Coordination and Review Section
    P.O. Box 66118
    Washington, D.C. 20035-6118

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel