Skip to main content
Search Interpretations

Interpretation ID: 2510y

Mr. Raymond D. Strakosch
Safety Premiums
87 Broadway
P. O. Box 1031
Newburgh, NY 12550

Dear Mr. Strakosch:

Thank you for your letter to John Messera, of our Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, seeking an interpretation of Standard No. 125, Warning Devices (49 CFR 571.125). You indicated that you have for many years produced and sold a "Signal Glo Car Door Mirror Clip On," which you described as a "dangling safety tag which attaches to the car mirror to alert passersby of emergency needs." These warning devices are made of a reflective plastic material designed with a clip attachment, and come in eight different shapes, including a triangular configuration. These products are slightly more than four inches high.

You also stated that, pursuant to a request from a customer, your company has developed a larger size warning triangle for mounting on a car mirror. You have provided a prototype of this new larger size "Lite at Nite" Reflective Auto Triangle, that is approximately 6" at the base and 5 1/2" in height. You stated that, as your warning triangle gets larger, you "wish to make sure it is not confused with the roadside truck version described in Standard No. 125." Additionally, you stated that you wanted to be certain that the instructions for this larger size warning triangle "in no way conflict with the standard." I am pleased to have this opportunity to explain our law and regulations to you.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.; the Safety Act) gives this agency the authority to issue safety standards applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. This agency has exercised this authority to establish Standard No. 125. Section S3 of Standard 125 states that the standard "applies to devices, without self-contained energy sources, that are designed to be carried in motor vehicles, and used to warn approaching traffic of the presence of a stopped vehicle, except for devices designed to be permanently affixed to the vehicle." (Emphasis added.)

This language in S3 of Standard No. 125 makes clear that the standard's requirements are not limited to devices used by large trucks; that is, Standard No. 125 does not apply only to a "roadside truck version" of a warning device. Instead, the standard applies to all devices designed to be carried in any motor vehicle, from the smallest motorcycle to the largest truck, if the device satisfies the other conditions set forth in S3 of the standard.

One of the conditions set forth in S3 is that the device must be designed to be used to "warn approaching traffic of a stopped vehicle." Devices that are not intended to warn approaching traffic of a stopped vehicle, but only to alert passing traffic of the stopped vehicle's need for assistance, are not subject to Standard No. 125. Examples of such devices include a rag tied on a radio antenna and a "HELP" message printed on a folding cardboard sunshade. By the time approaching traffic sees one of these non-warning devices, the traffic would already be aware that the vehicle displaying such a device was stopped.

Your "Signal Glo Car Door Mirror Clip On" product appears to be designed and to function in the same way other non-warning devices do; i.e., it does not appear to be intended to warn approaching traffic of a stopped vehicle, but to alert passing traffic that the stopped vehicle needs assistance. If this is the case, the "Signal Glo Car Door Mirror Clip On" would not be subject to Standard No. 125.

However, the larger "Lite at Nite" Reflective Auto Triangle may be designed to be used to "warn approaching traffic of a stopped vehicle." It appears from the promotional material enclosed in your letter that this larger triangle is intended to serve the same purpose as what you call "truck warning triangles." We assume that you are describing warning devices that are certified as complying with Standard No. 125. If your larger triangle is to serve this function, it would be subject to Standard No. 125 and would have to conform to all the requirements of the standard. From the enclosed copy of Standard No. 125, you will see that some of the specific requirements with which the larger triangle must conform include minimum size, durability, material, container, labeling, configuration, color, reflectivity, luminance, and stability.

When the agency has issued an applicable safety standard, section 108(a)(1)(A) of the Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1397(a)(1)(A)) provides that no person shall "manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, or introduce or deliver for introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United States" any new motor vehicle or new item of motor vehicle equipment unless the vehicles or equipment are in conformity with the applicable standard. Further, the Safety Act provides that NHTSA has no authority to approve, certify, or otherwise endorse any commercial product. Instead, section 114 of the Safety Act (15 U.S.C 1403) establishes a self-certification process under which every manufacturer is required to certify that each of its products meet all applicable Federal safety standards. To comply with any applicable legal obligations, especially in connection with the manufacture of the larger size warning triangle, I suggest that you carefully examine the requirements of Standard 125 and consider the design, marketing, and intended use of the new larger warning triangle. You should also be aware that the Safety Act establishes a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation of a safety standard and a maximum penalty of $800,000 for a series of violations. In addition, the Act requires manufacturers to notify purchasers and remedy any items of motor vehicle equipment, such as warning devices, that do not conform with any applicable safety standards.

I have also enclosed an information sheet for new manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, that briefly summarizes our laws and regulations and explains how to get copies of those laws and regulations. If you have any further questions or need additional information on this subject, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.


Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel

Enclosures ref:125 d:6/5/90