Dear Mr. Alkire:
This is in response to your letter of August 24, l989, in care of Taylor Vinson of this Office, asking for our comments on your "Brake Light Enhancer". This device flashes the stop lamps of a vehicle three times within the first two seconds after actuation of the stop lamp system, the lamps remaining illuminated thereafter.
Our comments on your device are restricted to its acceptability under the Federal regulatory scheme as either original or aftermarket equipment.
The Federal motor vehicle safety standard applicable to lighting equipment on new vehicles is Standard No. l08. This standard must be met when the vehicle is manufactured, and when it is sold to its first purchaser (i.e., dealer-installed equipment must not affect compliance of the vehicle with the safety standards). Section S5.5.10(e) of Standard No. l08 requires stop lamps to be wired to be steady burning in use, and your device's initial cycle of three flashes in two seconds would create a noncompliance with this requirement. Accordingly, your device is not permissible as an item of original equipment.
There is no aftermarket Federal standard applicable to your device. Equipment intended for vehicles in use are subject to the restriction of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act that they may not render inoperative, in whole or in part, equipment installed in accordance with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard, if they are installed by a person other than the vehicle owner. In our view, if a modification creates a noncompliance with a standard that applies to a new motor vehicle, it is the equivalent of creating a partial inoperability of orignial safety equipment when that modification is performed on a motor vehicle in use. Installation of the Brake Light Enhancer by a person other than the vehicle owner would have this effect, and thus would be subject to the prohibition of the Act. Use of the device is also subject to the laws of the various States in which the device will be sold and operated. Although California may permit its use, per Calif. Senate Bill 1317 that you enclosed, other States may not. We are unable to advise on State laws, and recommend that you write the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators for an opinion. Its address is 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203.
Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel