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Vehicle Equipment and Safety Standards

Program Manager

Jeff Greiner
Phone: 503 986-4198
FAX:  503 986-3143
ODOT - Transportation Safety Division - MS 3
4040 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem, OR 97302-1142

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Program Introduction

Vehicle Equipment Standards:  TSD acts as a resource for questions about vehicle standards. Oregon has adopted the federal motor vehicle safety standards for all vehicles. TSD also administers the Emergency Vehicle Designation and Tow Truck Equipment programs.

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FAQs about Vehicle Equipment


   Buying a Used Car
   Safety Belts
Off Road Motorcycles

1) What equipment does my trailer need to have?
Answer: Check out the new Towing a Trailer in Oregon, brochure.
2) Do trailers need lights if you can see the lights of the tow vehicle past the trailer? 
Answer: Yes. All trailers regardless of size need to be equipped with the following lights:
  • Two red tail lights;
  • Two red stop (brake) lights;
  • Two red or amber turn signal lights;
  • Two red reflex reflectors 
All of the above lights may be incorporated into one light assembly on each side of the rear of the trailer. The lights should be mounted as far as practical to the outside edge of the trailer and as far as practical to the rear of the trailer.
  • Side marker lights and side reflex reflectors.   
The side marker lights and reflex reflectors on the rear side must be red and can be incorporated in the tail light assembly above if they are visible from the side of the trailer. The side marker lights and reflex reflectors on the front side must be amber and as close to the front as practical. (ORS 816.320)
Trailers that are over 80 inches wide or longer than 30 feet or that have a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or more; have more light and reflector requirements. See the following DOT site for that information as well as location for all of the above lights: Trailers: Federal Lighting Equipment Location Requirements (NHTSA). 
Trailers that weigh 1,800 pounds or more loaded, need to be registered and licensed through Oregon Motor Vehicles Division.
3) Does my trailer need safety chains.
Answer: Yes. The chains must be able to support the weight of the trailer and load. The chains must be crossed under the tongue of the trailer so if the tongue comes off the ball, the trailer is supported by the chains and does not contact the ground. (ORS 818.150)
4) Do I have to have brakes on my trailer?
Answer: Oregon law requires that any vehicle or combination of vehicles weighing less than 8,000 pounds must be able to stop within a travel lane in 25 feet from 20 miles per hour. If the vehicle or combination of vehicles weighs over 8,000 pounds, the vehicle must be able to stop within a travel lane in 35 feet from 20 miles per hour.  Check your owner's manual of the tow vehicle to see what the manufacturer recommends. Most manufacturers recommend trailer brakes if the trailer and load weigh 1,000 pounds or more. (ORS 815.125)
5) Can I tow a boat trailer, utility trailer or car behind my travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer? 
Answer: No. Only commercial vehicles can tow more than one trailer in Oregon. (ORS 818.110)

6) Does my vehicle need mud flaps/mud guards?
Answer: Non commercial vehicles (under 8,000 lbs.) need fenders or mud guards (mud flaps) within 27 inches of the pavement behind the tire.  Commercial vehicles need fenders or mudguards (mud flaps) within 10 inches behind all wheels. (ORS 815.180)
Fenders and mud guards (mud flaps) must cover the entire tread width of the tire(s). (ORS 815.180)
7) How far can a vehicle sit off the ground before mud flaps are required?
Answer: For a vehicle that is less than 8,000 lbs the law states: "...fenders or mudguards must extend in full width from a point on the wheels that is above and forward of the center of the tire over a point at the rear of the wheel that is not more than 27 inches above the surface of the highway."  ORS 815-180 (2) (c) The issue is not how far the truck can sit off the ground so much as making sure that fenders or mud flaps are in place not more than 27 inches from the surface of the highway.
8) Where do you measure that height from, lowest point of back bumper? 
Answer:  As stated above, you would measure the height from the ground and make sure it is not more than 27 inches.
9) How far are tires allowed to stick out from the side of a vehicle before you must get fender flares?
Answer: A fender or mudguard must cover the complete width of the tire's tread.  This is in ORS 815.180 (1) (a).  The fender or mudguard must also be of sufficient size and constructed so that it is capable of deflecting or arresting any dirt, mud, water or other substance that may be picked up and carried on the wheels.

Buying a Used Car?
10) Does a car that I purchase or sell have to have working safety equipment?

Answer: Yes, in some cases. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS 815.075) requires that certain vehicle safety equipment adopted under Oregon Administrative Rules 735-100-0000 through 735-112-0000 http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/rules/oars_700/oar_735/735_tofc.aspx must function properly at the time of sale. The law pertains to a vehicle sale by private party or dealer. Safety equipment adopted by rule includes seat belts, window glazing, brake fluids, lighting equipment and hitches. Air bags, brakes (other than fluid), suspensions and tires are not covered under this law.

Safety Belts
11) My safety belts in my old car don't work any more; can I get a safety belt exemption so I don't get a ticket?
Answer: No. You must get your safety belts repaired or replaced. You may not replace a lap shoulder belt combination with only a lap belt. You must repair or replace the system with the same type that it was manufactured with. A lap shoulder belt combination must be replaced with a lap shoulder belt combination. (ORS 811.225)
Many older car belts are not available from the manufacturer anymore, but auto parts retailers sell different types of replacement belts. You may also find classic car auto parts retailers that have safety belts available. You can find these outlets on the Internet.

12) How can I tell if my snow tires qualify under the law as traction tire and when are studded tires legal?
 Answer: A "Traction Tire" is a studded tire or other tire that meets the tire industry definition as suitable for use in severe snow conditions. Tires that meet the tire industry definition display an icon with a mountain peak with a snow flake inside the peak. (ORS 815.045) The ODOT Trip Check website has all the traction tire information you need.
If you do not have web access, contact the tire dealer you purchased you tires from or the Northwest Tire Dealers Association at: (509) 735-1991.
"Studded Tires" are legal from November 1 to April 1. Because of the damage caused by studded tires, the Department of Transportation encourages motorists to use studded tires only when necessary.  Delaying putting on studded tires or using other traction tires is helpful to the condition of the highways. (ORS815.165)
Winter driving conditions and camera views of mountain passes are also available on the ODOT Trip Check website.
13) When must I use chains? 
Answer: Oregon's chain law applies to all highways throughout the state. When you drive in winter conditions, you may see signs telling you to carry chains or traction tires and when you are required to use them. In some areas, lighted message signs also will advise you about chaining up. Under some conditions traction tires may be used in place of chains on vehicles rated at 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or less and that are not towing or being towed. In very bad winter road conditions all vehicles may be required to use chains regardless of the type of vehicle or type of tire being used. This is known as a conditional road closure. (ORS 815.045)

14) Are "Altezza" or European tail/brake light and front marker lenses legal for street use in Oregon?
Answer: Oregon has adopted the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 for lighting equipment. The standard is very specific for tail/brake light lenses and front side marker light lenses. The standard requires red lenses (not red bulbs) for the tail/brake lights and red rear and side reflex reflectors and red side marker lights. A separate rear side marker light and reflex reflector may also be allowed for the rear lighting system to meet the standard. The front side marker lens lights can be either white or amber (yellow) and must also have an amber (yellow) reflex reflector incorporated into the lens or have a separate side marker light and reflex reflector to meet the standard.  So, the answer to the question is in most cases after-market (non-original equipment) "Altezza" or European tail/brake and front marker light lenses are NOTlegal for street use in Oregon. They usually lack the required reflex reflectors and side marker lights.
Click here for more information (Note: the "Recalls" section.)  Most all of the after-market "Altezza" and European lenses have been recalled for not meeting FMVSS 108. (ORS 816.010).
15) Some of the new bright headlights hurt my eyes, what can be done about it?
Answer: NHTSA has issued a report on headlight glare and its effects on the eyes:
New Vehicles are in compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.  Manufactures are attempting to give the driver better ability to see.
16) What about other after-market vehicle equipment being legal for street use?
Answer: When looking to purchase any after-market product for your vehicle, always look for the following labeling on the product:
  • "For Off-Road Use Only"
  • "For Off-Road or Show Use Only"
  • "For Show Use Only"  
  • "Check local laws and ordinances for use."
 If the product has one or more of the above, it will NOT be legal for street use in Oregon. Oregon has adopted all of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and equipment standards and manufacturers that do NOT meet these standards, label their products with the above statements for liability purposes and to notify the public that the product is not to be used on the street.
Also, be very wary of products that have the following labeling:
  • "SAE or DOT Certified or Approved"
SAE and DOT do NOT certify or approve products. Manufacturers must meet or exceed SAE and/or DOT manufacturing standards to market their products for street use.
Some after-market lighting products marked "100% street legal" do NOT meet the federal lighting standard. You can check the website address listed in question 11 above, or contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for lighting as well as any vehicle equipment to see if the product meets safety standards and is legal for street use.  NHTSA Equipment Information (202) 366-2720.  (ORS 815.010)
17) Are headlight, tail light/brake light and license plate covers legal for street use in Oregon?
Answer: No. Headlight and tail/brake light covers do not meet the federal lighting standard (FMVSS 108) and Oregon has adopted the federal standard. Covers alter the light output and also reflectivity of reflex reflectors and may cover up the required square inches of lens and/or reflex reflectors required by FMVSS 108. (ORS 816.010)
License plate covers, clear or tinted, are not legal because any material or covering, other than a frame or plate holder, placed on, over or in front of the plate that alters the appearance of the plate, would be illegal. Plate covers, especially tinted ones, alter the visibility of the plate and most importantly, all plate covers alter the reflectivity of the plate. (ORS 803.550).
18) What are the laws for using auxiliary lights or fog lights in Oregon? 
Answer: Auxiliary driving lights and/or fog lights must be used like the high beam headlight system of your car. You must use a distribution of light or composite beam so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver. Fog lights may be either white or amber (yellow). They may not be blue, bluish or any other color than white or amber. 

On page 60 of the 2001-2003 Oregon Driver Manual it states: "It is also illegal to have auxiliary lights or fog lights on by themselves or on at times when you are required to dim your headlights. These very bright lights make it difficult for oncoming drivers to see."
Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 811.515 Section (8) states: A light other than a headlight, that projects a beam of light of an intensity grater than 300 candle power shall not be operated on a vehicle: (b) when use of low beams of the vehicle headlight system is required under limited visibility conditions.
ORS 801.325 "Limited visibility conditions means: (1) Any time from sunset to sunrise; and (2) Any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles are not clearly discernible on a straight, level, unlighted highway at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead."

19) If my windshield is cracked, must I replace it?
Answer:  If you have a damaged windshield you may be cited for having an obstructed window. Keep in mind that the windshield may not perform as designed if it is damaged. (ORS 815.220)

20) Can I have dark tinted windows?
Answer: No, unless you have a physical condition that requires it (see question #21 below).  Passenger vehicle windows must have total light transmittance (after tinting is installed) of at least 35%.  Generally, trucks and SUVs may have darker tinting installed on windows behind the driver, as long as there are rearview mirrors on each side of the vehicle.  Dark tinted windows are a serious safety concern for law enforcement because they are unable to determine the actions of the vehicle's occupants. (ORS 815.221)
For more information on window tinting: Frequently Asked Questions about Window Tinting brochure (pdf 11kb) 
21) What if I have a medical condition that requires me to have darker windows?
Answer: Yes. You may get your physician or optometrist to provide you with an affidavit stating that there is a physical condition that requires you to have windows tinted darker than Oregon law allows.  An affidavit is generally considered to be a legal document (not a letter or note on a prescription pad) that must be notarized. Also, the tint installer must provide you with a certificate stating what the total light transmittance is for the vehicle's windows.  Both documents must be carried in the vehicle at all times and provided to law enforcement upon request. (ORS 815.221)

Off Road Motorcycles
22) Can an Off-road Class III ATV (Dirt Bike) be made street legal?
Answer: Some dirt bikes can be made street legal, some can not.
First Step: Contact the manufacturer (not the local dealership) of the motorcycle, such as
Honda or Yamaha, and find out if the engine has been certified through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet emission standards for use on the street.  If the engine has not been certified for street use, you cannot make the motorcycle street legal.  If the engine has been certified for street use, it may need a carburetor or exhaust update, as some dirt bike engines don't have the same carburetor or exhaust that the street bike conversion has.  Get a letter from the manufacturer stating the engine does meet street standards and what modification, if any, it needs to meet the street use standards.
Second Step: If the engine does meet street standards, get a letter from the manufacturer listing the modifications needed to bring the motorcycle up to street standards.  Such as lighting equipment (includes all lights, turn signals, reflectors, high/low beam indicator), speedometer, rear view mirror, rims, tires, exhaust, etc.  These are referred to as the federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS).
Third Step: Keep all receipts for modifications.  You will need the manufacturers' certificate of origin, a receipt of ownership (bill of sale), and all your receipts for modifications, plus the two letters mentioned above from the manufacturer.
Fourth Step:  Take all this information to your local DMV field office when you try to register the motorcycle.  You may wish to call first to see if they want to visually inspect the vehicle for a vehicle identification number (VIN) at the time you try to register the vehicle.
As state above, some off-road dirt bikes cannot be made street legal because the engine does not meet the US EPA emission standards for street use.
For more information, check out the following publication: In-Depth Information for Motorcycle Owners on EPA's New Emission Standards for Highway Motorcycles, EPA, Dec 2003 (PDF 128 KB).
23) Can three and four wheelers (Class I  ATVs) be made street legal?
Answer: No
ATVs that are manufactured with Certificates of Origin for "Off-road use only" may not be made street legal in Oregon and most other states.  Federal law from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that every ATV manufactured carries warning labels and statements in the owners' manual prohibiting use on streets and highways.  These labels are required by a 1988 Federal Consent Decree with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.  ATVs are not to be used on roads because of the danger to rider from possible interaction with other vehicles.
Not only are there the US Consumer Product Safety Commission laws, but US Department of Transportation federal motor vehicle safety standards for equipment and US Environmental Protection Agency emission standards for clean air govern vehicles that may be used on roadways.  ATVs do not meet the US ODOT or US EPA standards for road use.  That is why the manufacturers' certificates of origins are labeled for "Off-road use only."
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