Are Light Bars Illegal? Get All Your Questions Answered

In the automotive world, LED light bars have become a popular accessory for their ability to provide a high degree of visibility in low-light conditions. Whether driving down a public roadway or navigating through off-road trails, these light bars can significantly enhance safety. However, the legality surrounding their use is often a gray area that leaves many drivers puzzled. This article delves into the legal aspect surrounding light bars, highlighting the states where light bars are illegal and the regulations governing their use on public roads across the United States.

In What States Are Light Bars Illegal?

The legality surrounding the use of light bars varies significantly from one state to another. Some states regulate the use of these lights strictly, while others have more lenient laws. Generally, light bar laws tend to hinge on concerns about the potential for LED light bars to distract or blind oncoming drivers. For instance, in some states, it’s illegal to drive with light bars turned on when on public roads, as they can potentially mimic emergency vehicle lights or simply be too bright for the comfort and safety of other road users. The specific states where light bars are illegal on public roads often require them to be covered with light bar covers when not in use to avoid any confusion or potential hazards.

A Ford Bronco with KC Light Bars and covers

Road Lights and Number of Auxiliary Lights

You’ll encounter a variety of options in automotive lighting, from standard road lights to fog lights and light bars. Regulations often specify the acceptable number of auxiliary lights that a vehicle can have, as well as the manner in which they should be mounted and used.

In many regions, LED light bars need to be positioned in a way that they do not cause glare or distraction to other drivers. They should be aimed downwards or covered with light bar covers when on public roads to ensure they do not interfere with the visibility of other road users.

Light Color and High Beams

The light color emitted by LED light bars is another factor that comes under scrutiny. Laws often specify the acceptable color of lights that vehicles can exhibit, with colors like red and blue being restricted to emergency and law enforcement vehicles.

Additionally, the brightness of LED light bars often surpasses that of standard high beams, which is a primary concern for many regulatory bodies. It’s essential for drivers to adhere to the local laws surrounding high beam use and ensure that their light bars are compliant.

A person standing next to a Can-Am X3 with KC Light Bars

Street Legal Lights and Oncoming Drivers

The term street legal lights encompasses a variety of lighting options that are compliant with the local laws and deemed safe for use on public roads. Ensuring that your vehicle’s lighting system is street-legal is paramount to avoiding fines and ensuring the safety of both yourself and other road users. The concern for oncoming drivers is a significant factor that influences light bar laws. Facing light from bright LED bars can be disorienting or blinding to other drivers.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with state laws regarding the use of light bars can result in various penalties, which may include fines, vehicle impoundment, or even legal charges in severe cases. The exact penalties can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. It’s crucial for drivers to be aware of and understand the specific laws and penalties in their state to avoid unexpected fines or legal troubles. An understanding of the consequences of non-compliance emphasizes the importance of adhering to local light bar regulations.

Maintenance and Inspection

Ensuring that your light bars are properly maintained and inspected is crucial for both legal compliance and safety. Regular maintenance checks can help ensure that the light bars are functioning correctly, are properly aligned to prevent glare to other drivers, and are free from damage that could impair their performance. Some states may also have specific inspection requirements for vehicle lighting. Keeping a well-maintained lighting system, including light bars, not only abides by the law but also contributes to road safety.

Light Bars Legal Status In Each State

[Updated 11 Oct 2023]

State Legal Status Acceptable Number of Auxiliary Lights Acceptable Colors
Alabama Legal Limited to two glare-free cowl or fender lamps​. White / Clear
Alaska Legal Limited to four lights on the front​. No part of a high-intensity light can be used on the road. White / Clear
Arizona Legal Any light greater than 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens) must be directed so that no part of the beam on the road 75 feet from the vehicle. White / Clear
Arkansas Not Permitted on Public Roads​ No auxiliary driving lights may be used on public roads. N/A
California Not Permitted on Public Roads​ When on public roadways, off-road lights must be off and covered with an opaque cover. White / Clear
Colorado Legal Limited to two, directed to the left side less than 100 feet away from the vehicle​. White / Clear
Connecticut Legal No more than four lights on the front, not exceeding 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens)​. White / Clear
Delaware Must be turned off on the road Two spotlights and two headlights allowed. Light bars must be off while on the road. White / Clear
D.C. Restrictions based on candlepower​ Must not exceed 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens)​. White / Clear
Florida Legal Only four lights allowed in front of a vehicle, adherence to existing light laws required​. White / Clear
Georgia Legal Only one spotlight and one “auxiliary driving light” allowed​. White / Clear
Hawaii Must be turned off on roads​ Lights are not allowed to exceed 2,400 candlepower (30,168 lumens). Light bars must be turned off on roads. White / Clear
Idaho Legal Lights are not allowed to exceed 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens)​, and only four lights are allowed​. White / Clear
Illinois Legal No more than four lights on the front. All lights must be dimmable and aimed away from other drivers’ eyes​. White / Clear
Indiana Legal One auxiliary driving lamp allowed​. White / Clear
Iowa Legal Only three auxiliary driving lamps allowed​. White / Clear
Kansas Restrictions apply Must be off when at least 75 feet from approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Kentucky Not Permitted on public roads Illegal to drive through public roads with LED light bars turned on unless offroading. N/A
Louisiana Not Permitted on public roads Must not exceed 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens)​. N/A
Maine Must adhere to existing vehicle light laws No auxiliary light can be brighter than the standard lighting equipment. White / Clear
Maryland Legal No more than two auxiliary lamps mounted between 16 and 42 inches above ground level. White / Clear
Massachusetts Not Permitted Illegal to drive with LED light bars turned on. Strict regulations on all aftermarket lighting.​ N/A
Michigan Legal No more than four forward-facing lights allowed​. White / Clear
Minnesota Legal Up to two auxiliary driving lamps allowed​. White / Clear
Mississippi Legal Two auxiliary driving lamps allowed​. White / Clear
Missouri Legal Up to three auxiliary driving lamps allowed​. White / Clear
Montana Not Permitted on Public Roads ​Light bars may not be used on public roadways. N/A
Nevada Legal Two auxiliary lamps are allowed​ between 16 and 42 inches above a level surface. White / Clear
New Hampshire Restrictions on total number of lights Up to three auxiliary driving lamps mounted between 12 and 42 inches high. White / Clear
New Jersey Legal, with conditions Low profile model, sits lower than the truck’s headlights​. White / Clear
New Mexico Restrictions apply One auxiliary driving lamp mounted between 16 and 42 inches above the ground. Must be turned off when within 500 feet of approaching vehicles. White / Clear
New York Not Permitted While not technically illegal, all auxiliary lights cannot exceed 32 candlepower (402 lumens). There are no light bars made with less than 32 candlepower. N/A
North Carolina Restrictions Apply Light bars must be off while driving on public roads. White / Clear
North Dakota Restrictions on mounting and beam direction Must be turned off when within 75 feet of approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Ohio Restrictions on total number of lights No more than five front-facing lights. Must be turned off when within 75 feet of approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Oklahoma Restrictions apply Not permitted on public roads. N/A
Oregon Restrictions apply Not permitted on public roads. N/A
Pennsylvania Restrictions apply Off-road lights must be off and covered while on public roads. White / Clear
Rhode Island Restrictions on mounting and beam direction All lights with more than 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens) must be off when at least 75 feet from approaching vehicles. White / Clear
South Carolina Restrictions on mounting and beam direction All lights with more than 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens) must be off when at least 75 feet from approaching vehicles. White / Clear
South Dakota Restrictions on mounting and beam direction All lights with more than 25 candlepower (314.25 lumens) must be off when at least 50 feet from approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Tennessee Restrictions on mounting and beam direction No more than two auxiliary lights are allowed, and they cannot be directed at approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Texas Restrictions on mounting and beam direction ​Two auxiliary driving lamps are permitted but must be mounted between 16 and 42 inches above a level surface. White / Clear
Utah Restrictions on mounting and beam direction All lights with more than 300 candlepower (3,771 lumens) must be off when at least 75 feet from approaching vehicles. White / Clear
Vermont Restrictions apply After-market lights must be DOT-approved. White / Clear
Virginia Must cover auxiliary lights mounted higher than factory headlights Any lights mounted higher than factory headlights must be covered. May have 2 uncovered lights in addition to headlights. Uncovered lights must be off when on public roads. White / Clear
Washington Restrictions on the total number of lights and candlepower Two auxiliary lights are allowed but must be mounted between 16 and 42 inches off the ground. White / Clear
West Virginia Restrictions on mounting height and beam direction All lamps mounted higher than 42 inches off the ground must be covered. White / Clear
Wisconsin Restrictions on total number of lights No more than 4 forward-facing lights. White / Clear
Wyoming Restrictions apply Not permitted on public roads. N/A

*The information provided in this table is subject to change based on state law changes. Consult your local government authority for up-to-date information.

FAQs:

1. Are light bars legal in all states?

No, the legality of light bars varies from state to state. Some states have strict regulations, while others are more lenient. It’s crucial to check the specific laws in your state to ensure compliance.

2. What are the penalties for using light bars illegally?

Penalties can range from fines to vehicle impoundment and, in severe cases, legal charges. The exact penalties depend on the state laws and the severity of the violation.

3. How should light bars be mounted to comply with laws?

The mounting regulations may vary, but generally, light bars should be positioned to avoid causing glare or distraction to other drivers. They should be aimed downwards or covered when on public roads.

4. Can I use red or blue light bars on my vehicle?

Typically, red and blue lights are restricted to emergency and law enforcement vehicles. Using these colors on your light bars may result in penalties, depending on your state’s laws.

5. What is the primary concern regarding the use of light bars?

The main concern is the potential for light bars to distract or blind other drivers, especially during nighttime or low visibility conditions, which can lead to accidents.

6. Do I need to cover my light bars when not in use?

In some states, covering light bars when not in use on public roads is a requirement to prevent confusion or potential hazards. It’s advisable to check your local laws for specific guidelines.

Final Thoughts:

The popularity of LED light bars underscores the quest for better visibility on the road. However, their use on public roads comes with legal considerations that vary across states. This article navigates the complex legal terrain surrounding light bars in the US, highlighting the penalties for non-compliance and emphasizing the importance of adhering to local regulations. The state-by-state breakdown and FAQ section provide a valuable resource for drivers to understand and comply with the laws governing light bar usage. As light bar legality might see future legislative adjustments, staying updated on your state’s specific laws is imperative to ensure a safe and lawful driving experience.