What is the Law on Neon Lights for Cars in North Carolina?

by Lisa Magloff

Neon automotive lights, or ground effect lights, are often added by car enthusiasts to make the car look more interesting or attractive. Most states, including North Carolina, have laws governing the use of neon lights and the colors allowed. These generally ban the use of neon lights that may interfere with driving or are the same color as those used by emergency services vehicles. In North Carolina, the use of neon lights is governed by the Motor Vehicle Act.

Red Lights

In North Carolina, it is illegal for any private vehicle, with a few exceptions, to be fitted with a red light of any kind, including neon lights. The law defines a red light as one designed to be used in emergency vehicles or one similar to such lights. The law also includes any forward facing red lights. Neon lights that can be seen from the front of the car would be illegal in North Carolina.

Red Light Exceptions

Several types of vehicle are exempted from the red light restrictions. These include police cars, ambulances, vehicles use to transport organs for transplantation or blood supplies, school buses, and vehicles used by members of rural fire departments, including volunteer fire fighters. Private vehicles used by volunteer member of life-saving organizations are also exempt if they are approved by local police. Vehicles used by doctors in emergencies are also allowed to use red lights.

Blue Lights

North Carolina law makes it unlawful to have a blue light on any vehicle not used for law enforcement. A blue light is defined by law as any forward facing blue light similar in appearance to those used by emergency vehicles. Lights that are inoperable or are used in specially constructed vehicles used in parades, exhibitions or other non-transportation use are permitted. To be inoperable, the light must not be able to produce illumination.

White Lights

North Carolina also bans driving forward on the highway with white or clear light on the back of any vehicle. This type of light is normally used to signal a vehicle that is backing up. The law does not ban using white lights--including white neon lights--while the vehicle is stationary or backing up. Any other lights other than spot lamps--such as neon lights--with an intensity of more than 25 candlepower need to be mounted to prevent the light from spreading more than 50 feet away from the vehicle.

Permitted Neon Lights

North Carolina law does not ban neon lights outright, only certain colors of light. Vehicle owners can still use neon lights in colors other than blue or red. Neon lights come in a variety of colors, such as green, pink, purple, orange and yellow. North Carolina law also specifically allows the use of amber lighting as a warning light, even on privately owned vehicles.

About the Author

Since graduating with a degree in biology, Lisa Magloff has worked in many countries. Accordingly, she specializes in writing about science and travel and has written for publications as diverse as the "Snowmass Sun" and "Caterer Middle East." With numerous published books and newspaper and magazine articles to her credit, Magloff has an eclectic knowledge of everything from cooking to nuclear reactor maintenance.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera police car speed, toy model car, chase criminal image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com