Member, U.S. House of Representatives
430 Davidson St., Suite A
Chula Vista, CA 92010
Dear Mr. Bates:
This is in reply to your letter of October 19, l988, with reference to an invention by your constituent, Angelo R. Collica. You have asked for "the requirements necessary to install lighting devices on motor vehicles."
Since we do not have a description of Mr. Collica's device, our answer must therefore be general in nature. There are different answers, depending upon whether a device is installed before or after the first sale of a vehicle.
A supplementary lighting device installed on a vehicle by a vehicle manufacturer or dealer before its first sale to a consumer is permissible as long as it does not impair the effectiveness of lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment that are required by the Federal motor vehicle safety standard on lighting. Examples of impairment are diminished brightness of a lamp due to interference with its wiring, or a confusion of its function through close proximity or signal of the supplementary device. In general, also, all lighting equipment other than hazard warning/turn signals, and headlamps flashed for signalling purposes, must be steady-burning in use. Whether a device creates an impairment is a determination to be made by the vehicle manufacturer in its certification of compliance with the Federal safety standards, or by the dealer, before sale of the vehicle.
The installation of a supplementary lighting device on a vehicle after the vehicle's first sale to a consumer is acceptable under Federal law, provided that the installation does not degrade the performance of any device or element of design installed in accordance with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard. This prohibition applies to vehicle manufacturers, distributors, dealers and repair businesses. It does not, however, apply if the supplementary lighting device is installed by the vehicle owner.
The legality of operating a supplementary device, installed after vehicle sale, is primarily determinable under the laws of any State in which a vehicle using it is registered or driven. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22203, is able to advise on State laws.
I hope that this has been helpful to you.
Diane K. Steed