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Interpretation ID: 24604.ztv

    Jeff Barnett, President
    Consumer Imports, LLC
    Box 56
    Allen, TX 75002

    Dear Mr. Barnett:

    This is in reply to your letter asking for an interpretation of our regulations with respect to a product you wish to import and sell, called "Signalfly."

    Signalfly consists of four components: a receiver module unit (RMU), a fused transmitter module unit (Fused TMU), a transmitter infrared unit (TIU), and an A/C charger. The RMU houses the LED light sources of the lamp. It is affixed to a motorcycle helmet through an adhesive material. The Fused TMU is connected to the motorcycles stop lamp wiring. The TIU is mounted on the rear of the motorcycle. The charger is used to recharge the RMU when it is not in use. When the motorcyclist applies the brakes, the RMU affixed to the motorcyclists helmet "flashes approximately 1.5 flashes per second."

    The components of Signalfly are defined as "motor vehicle equipment" under our regulations. There are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) that directly apply to these individual items of motor vehicle equipment. However, when the components operate as a system, they raise issues that impact two Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS).

    The first standard affected is FMVSS No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets, and the second is FMVSS No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.

    Specifically, FMVSS No. 218 (S5.5) prohibits a motorcycle helmet from having a rigid projection on the outside of a helmet shell, except for "those required for operation of essential accessories, and shall not protrude more than 0.20 inch (5 mm)." We do not regard Signalfly as an "essential accessory" within the meaning of the phrase. This means that a motorcycle helmet to which Signalfly is attached would not comply with FMVSS No. 218. Although we understand Signalfly is intended to be sold in the aftermarket, I would like to point out that under 49 U.S.C. 30112(a), it is a violation to manufacture for sale, sell, or offer for sale a motorcycle helmet that fails to comply with FMVSS No. 218. This means that a helmet may not be sold with the RMU attached to the helmet, or as part of the sale of a new helmet. A helmet owner who buys Signalfly and attaches the RMU would not be in violation of Federal regulations but, in our view, would be deprived of the head protection that FMVSS No. 218 seeks to assure. Whether it is legal for a person to operate a motorcycle while wearing a helmet with the RMU attached is not a Federal question, but a question to be answered under the laws of each jurisdiction in which Signalfly is used. We also raise the possibility that the RMU may cover or obstruct the DOT symbol that constitutes the manufacturers certification that the helmet complies with FMVSS No. 218. I might add that we are also concerned that the adhesive attachment to the helmet might cause a chemical reaction to the shell and reduce the dynamic impact performance of the helmet (see S5.6.1(f)(2)). It is this agencys policy to discourage motorcycle helmet users from modifying their helmets.

    In relation to the FMVSS including FMVSS No. 108, we also administer a law that forbids manufacturers, dealers, distributors, or motor vehicle repair businesses from making "inoperative" any original equipment on a vehicle that is installed in accordance with a Federal safety standard, such as a stop lamp on a motorcycle. Because of the potential of an additional, flashing, stop lamp to cause confusion with the required steady-burning stop lamp, it is our opinion that the installation and use of the Signalfly would make the required stop lamp partially "inoperative" within the meaning of the prohibition. However, the prohibition would not apply if the motorcycle's owner installed the Signalfly. Whether it is legal to use the device on public roads depends upon the law of the state where the Signalfly is operated. We are not able to advise you about the applicability of State law.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel