LED lights offer the fastest way to customize a car if you want it to stand out. Most car enthusiasts prefer this route to create a cozy ambiance with different colors. But what is the legality of using LED lights in your car’s interior?
Is it illegal to use LED lights inside your car? Technically, using LED lights inside your vehicle is legal. Currently, no statutory or federal laws stop you from customizing your car’s interior with LED lights.
However, you can still get pulled over by law enforcement officers. Keep reading to find out what type of LED lights can get you in trouble.
- The Legality of LED Lights Inside Cars
- Risks Of Using Illegal LED Lights Inside Cars
- How To Determine If LED Lights Are Legal for Use in a Car
- How to Legally Install LED Lights in a Car
- Can you get pulled over for having LED lights in your car?
- What Colors Are Legal for Car Interior Lights?
- Is It Illegal to Drive With Interior Lights On?
- What Is the Difference Between a Dome Light and A Map Light?
- Why is it unsafe to drive with your interior lights on?
- What to do if you need to turn the interior lights on in your car?
Read on for detailed information about the legality of using LED lights in your car. This article will also focus on the risks associated with LED lights in a car’s interior and how to install them. Let’s dive in!
The Legality of LED Lights Inside Cars
Using LED lights in your car is legal, contrary to what the majority of people believe. Most custom interior car lights are usually LEDs, but you can also use replacement bulbs. They make your car’s interior look cool and trendy. However, they can be health hazards.
You can use LED lights in your car without getting pulled over by law enforcement officers if you keep to the safety standards and policies set by your state. You can add a little touch to your car’s interior with LED strips or battery-operated lights.
However, law enforcement can still pull you over if your aftermarket LED lights distract you or other road users. You can get a distracted driving ticket or be ordered by police officers to turn them off.
As mentioned, it is not technically illegal to have interior LED lights. However, depending on your state, different laws might exist that regulate the use of aftermarket LED lights in your car. They vary from state to state, but the most common ones include the following:
- Only red color may be visible on the car’s rear
- The blue color is prohibited in some states
- No flashing or strobing of the LED lights
- No red color should be seen from the car’s front
- The license plate color must always be white
- The LED lights should not be glaringly visible from outside of the vehicle.
Remember, the laws may be different when driving off-road and on highways or city streets. Off-road lighting may not be street-legal. To know if your LED lights are street-legal, look for a DOT stamp. This shows that the Department of Transportation approves it in public places such as streets and highways. This may not apply to off-road lighting, where you may use brighter exterior and interior lights.
Risks Of Using Illegal LED Lights Inside Cars
Having LED lights in your car comes with many benefits. They are praised for their energy efficiency, longevity, versatility, and less heat production. However, they also come with risks. Using them can put your life and other road users at risk, among other disadvantages.
The following are some of the risks and disadvantages of using LED lights in your car:
Risk Of Getting Pulled Over and Receiving a Ticket
It is legal to use LED lights inside your car, but that doesn’t mean a law enforcement officer cannot pull you over to give you a ticket or order you to turn them on. That may happen if you violate the laws or policies in your state that control how these lights are used.
You will be pulled over if your LED lights are glaringly visible from the outside. This has the possibility of distracting other drivers. So, as a safety concern, law enforcement officers may give you a ticket to warn you about it.
Also, you can be pulled over and ticketed if a red color is visible from the front of your car. Or, any color other than red can be seen from your car’s rear.
Possibility Of Damaging the Car’s Electrical System
Installation of the car’s interior LED lights is more complex. You may mess up your car’s electrical system without technical or DIY skills. This will interfere with your car’s functions, which can spell disaster.
If you want to customize your car’s system with these aftermarket LED lights, call an automotive electrician to install them. Always ensure it is done correctly!
Risk Of Distracting Other Drivers on The Road
LED lights come in all colors with varied luminance. Some are exceptionally bright and can blind you, especially when the reflection comes off your windshield wiper. Also, the bright light interferes with your field of vision. This makes it difficult to see the road ahead, which can cause minor or severe crashes.
Unfortunately, you are not the only one distracted by bright LED lights in your car. Strobe lights can not only distract other drivers but also make them dizzy or cause a seizure. This can be fatal!
In other words, bright LED lights cause momentary blindness that can be dangerous to any road user. Also, the various colors of these aftermarket interior lights can cause confusion on the road since they signify different things to drivers.
How To Determine If LED Lights Are Legal for Use in a Car
Before you buy any aftermarket LED lights to install in your car, you should determine their legality in your state. As mentioned, they are not illegal. But you should be aware of any laws or policies regulating their use. So, how do you know if you customize your car’s interior with these LED lights?
Checking State and Local Laws Regarding Aftermarket Lighting
The first step is to check with your local law enforcement agency for specific rules regarding using LED lights in the car. These laws vary from state to state, and you should be aware of them before modifying your car’s interior light.
Also, if you are going on a long trip that involves crossing state lines, check the rules for the state you will be visiting or driving through. It will save you from getting on the wrong side of the law, which might be frustrating during any trip.
Consulting The Vehicle’s Owner’s Manual or Contacting the Manufacturer
Automakers always have new laws and regulations beforehand to ensure their vehicles can be certified for particular regions. If you are still looking for valuable information regarding LED lights in your car from local law agencies, turn to the manufacturer.
Manufacturers often print these laws in the owner’s manual they send to the customers or dealerships. Refer to your owner’s manual or contact the dealership to get this information.
Checking for SAE or DOT Certification on the Lights
DOT is an acronym for Department of Transportation. It is a federal agency that creates industry standards, specifications, and tests for headlights and taillights. Its primary function is to ensure the products are safe for public use and serve their purpose accordingly. Approved automotive lights are stamped with “DOT” to show law enforcement officers that they comply with the transportation laws and are street legal.
On the other hand, the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) is a global organization that sets standards for designing, manufacturing, and testing car taillights and headlights. That means SAE-approved lights may not be street legal in some countries, such as the US, which have different standards and specifications.
Although DOT and SAE majorly control the headlights and taillights, you can use this criterion to look for street-legal LED lights to use inside your car. It is an assurance that you can buy DOT-stamped LED lights if you intend to use them on highways and cities or SAE-certified products for off-road use.
How to Legally Install LED Lights in a Car
It is tempting to install LED lights inside your car to make it look cool and stand out. However, you should not do it blindly if you want to stay on the right side of the law. Consider the following before you take any further steps:
- Installing lights that are SAE or DOT certified. This is an assurance that you will be using street-legal products that will not get you pulled over by law-enforcement officers.
- Using lights only in permitted areas such as the interior or undercarriage. Any other option may put you in danger or get you pulled over. For instance, uncertified lights can be too bright to cause distraction or interfere with your field of vision.
- Ensuring that the lights do not interfere with the driver’s visibility or distract other drivers on the road. Once again, overly bright LEDs should be avoided to stay safe.
- Use only the permitted colors in your car. And if the interior lights are to be visible from the car’s rear, they should only be red. At the same time, the red light should not be visible on the car’s front.
- Do not use lights designated for cops. That may be interpreted as mimicry, which will earn you a ticket. Use other colors not used by police officers inside or outside their cars.
Can you get pulled over for having LED lights in your car?
Yes. Law enforcement officers can pull you over for having LED lights in your car. That happens if they are considered too bright to cause a distraction to other drivers. You may even get a ticket for distracted driving.
What Colors Are Legal for Car Interior Lights?
This depends on the jurisdictions where you live. Some states outlawed red and blue colors in the car’s interior, but others have not. You can legally use red lights, provided it is not visible from the front of the vehicle. Also, remember that only the red should be visible from the car’s rear. Any other color may get you pulled over by law enforcement officers.
Is It Illegal to Drive With Interior Lights On?
Driving with interior lights on is legal. However, you can be pulled over and written a ticket if it is excessively bright. This can impair your vision or distract other drivers.
What Is the Difference Between a Dome Light and A Map Light?
These two types of interior lights differ in how they are operated and their location inside the car. Dome lights are mounted in the middle of the ceiling, while map light is located on either side of the dome light, usually closer to the front windshield. Dome lights automatically turn on when you open the door. On the other hand, you have to manually switch the map lights on or off.
Why is it unsafe to drive with your interior lights on?
Driving with interior lights on is legal but not advised for safety reasons. The interior lights interfere with your field of vision and may cause temporary blindness if it reflects off the windshield wiper. Next time your grandma tells you to switch the interior lights off, know that it has nothing to do with breaking the law but your safety.
What to do if you need to turn the interior lights on in your car?
The best thing to do before turning on the interior lights for whatever reason is to find the safest spot to pull over. Reaching out for a switch and the sudden bright light on the dash will cause great distractions. It means taking your eyes off the road, which can be disastrous.
Installing aftermarket LED lights in your car or using them as exterior lights can be cool. But stick to the ones allowed by the law to avoid legal consequences. Also, using correct car lighting ensures safety on the road.
LED lights can be too bright, which is true in many cases. This can distract other drivers or cause temporary blindness to the driver of the oncoming vehicle. Such cases increase the risks of accidents. To ensure your safety and other road users, use only the recommended LED lights and use them appropriately.
Brian is an auto technician who writes DIY repair articles and creates how-to videos for MechanicAsk. He focuses on common repairs like brakes, oil changes, and lighting. Brian draws on his 5 years of dealership experience to explain repairs in an easy-to-follow manner, even for novice do-it-yourselfers. His technical articles always include detailed tool lists, supply checklists, and visual guides.