Since the advent of the Fast and the Furious, lighting modifications have rapidly expanded across the auto universe. From mild turn signal upgrades to extensive underglow, virtually any ride has numerous LED options available from the aftermarket. However, not all of these play well with local and state laws. Which lighting mods are legal and which may cause you a few headaches? We have you covered below…
To start, the rules surrounding headlights and taillights are pretty clear. The below laws are according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, but they’re similar across all 50 states:
• Any light visible from the front of the vehicle shall be white, yellow or amber
• Any light visible from the forward most edge of the rear tire of the vehicle to the front of the vehicle shall be amber or yellow
• Any light visible from the forward most edge of the rear tire of the vehicle to the rear of the vehicle shall be red
• Any light visible from the rear of the vehicle shall be red or amber
In other words, regulations pretty definitively say that if there’s light from the front of your vehicle, it better be white, yellow or amber. From the back, it’s red or amber (with the exception of reverse lights). How about underbody glow? Technically a) no company produces underglow that is explicitly permitted for on-road use and b) if they did, it would be held to the above color limitations. That’s according to the Connecticut DOT, at least.
Some states are more liberal when it comes to such policies. Kansas, for example, openly allows underbody lighting provided it isn’t strobe, flashing or red lights, or with visible tubes. Others, such as Arizona and Michigan, are not quite as lenient.
Does that mean you should remove any violating LEDs or neon tubes from your ride? Not necessarily. While those are the regulations, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re enforced. Go to any car meet and you’re likely to see light strips in direct violation with local vehicle modification laws. Odds are, the driver hasn’t been nor is likely to get hassled. Having said that, there certainly are exceptions. Any colors remotely close to emergency vehicle lights are a big no-no and asking for trouble. Do your best to stay away from bright, large amounts of blue and red light.
So what’s the takeaway when it comes to LED and general lighting laws? You can pretty much take the above bulleted headlight/taillight guidelines as set in stone. For underbody strips/tubes however, your best bet is to check with your state and county laws on vehicle modification. As with window tint, there’s a decent chance that regulation-violating setups won’t be ticketed. Just keep in mind that as long as you’re violating code, you technically could be pulled over at any point. Is it worth it? That probably depends on how much lighting you’re running, the colors used, how distracting it is, any pulse or strobe effects, etc.
For more info, we strongly suggest checking out your state’s Department of Transportation page for all of your local LED/aftermarket lighting rules.