Underglow Lighting Laws

by Edmund Gary

Underglow lights are the aftermarket lights mounted on the undercarriage of a vehicle. They will emit a diffused glow whenever they are switched on. Underglow lights will give the vehicle the appearance of floating on the road, otherwise known as a "halo." Light colors generally come in red, blue and yellow. Neon light kits can be fitted on cars, trucks and even motorcycles. The cost of the light tube kits start around $98. The lights can either be neon or LED types. The LED lights use less energy.

Federal Vehicle Lighting Laws

Specifically, U.S. law requires motor vehicles to have headlights, side marker lights (since the 1968 model year), turn signals, taillights, four-way emergency flashers and a bulb to illuminate the rear license plate. The reverse lamps must illuminate when the transmission is in reverse. The stop lights should illuminate whenever the brakes are applied. A high-mounted stop light must be present on all cars and light trucks built after the 1986 model year. These standards are uniform for any vehicle sold in the U.S.

Trouble with Red or Blue lights

Red and blue underglow lamps can pose a problem because these colors are reserved for emergency vehicles. Placement of red or blue underglow lamps in the front of the vehicle could attract the attention of the police in some jurisdictions. Flashing underglow can guarantee a potential traffic stop. If nothing else, the police may regard the flashing lights as a distraction.

The Legislature

The statute governing the use of underglow lighting varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Consider the following: a. The Kansas motor vehicle law Chapter 8, Article 17 section 8-172 (f) states that any vehicle can have underglow lights providing that it is not in any shade of red, or flashing. The tube cannot be visible either. b. California's Department of Motor Vehicles states that vehicle lighting laws allows a diffused non glaring lamp for cars which will emit no more than 0.05 candela per square inch. Red is prohibited from being displayed on the front. c. Massachusetts attorney Ernest Biando wrote on the website lawguru.com that police in Massachusetts can site a motorist for violating a Chapter 90 motor vehicle law. They are not necessarily illegal in the state of Massachusetts.

Local Law Enforcement Opinion

The Berwyn Heights, Maryland, Police Department says on its website that Maryland law requires that aftermarket devices must be approved by the Administrator of the Department of Motor Vehicles before they can be installed on a vehicle. Underglow lights have not been approved in Maryland. Maryland law states that the vehicle lighting must conform to the requirements set by federal law. Changing the lighting in any fashion would result in a $40 to $50 fine for the operator. Citations for such violations has increased over the years.

Bottom Line

Underglow light kits are sold online and in auto parts stores. That does not mean they are legal in one's jurisdiction. Legal recourse from the retailer or manufacturer is unavailable. The light kits may have disclaimer on the box that reads "not for use on the public highway" or "check local laws before using this product." This shifts the responsibility to the owner and operator of the vehicle. If one is considering an underglow modification for his vehicle, he should check with the local department of motor vehicles or their local law enforcement agency to determine if the modifications are allowed in the vehicle code.

About the Author

Edmund Gary began writing on a volunteer basis in 2001. He writes press releases and newsletter articles which center around the activities of his Knights of Columbus Council. His stories appear in "Knightlife," the official publication of the James C. Fletcher, Jr. Council No. 11422. Gary has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowie State University.