Here is an introduction to external lighting effects and the laws around their use.
Types of External Lighting
The two most recognized forms of external lighting accessories are light bars and underglow. These are installed for different reasons and are governed by separate laws.
Lightbars are a strip of lights installed either above the windshield of a vehicle or above the front bumper. These are mainly used for off-roading and other outdoor activities to provide extra lighting in areas with no street lighting and uneven terrain. Lightbars also add to a vehicle’s rugged appearance. Trucks and SUVs are the vehicles most likely to use light bars.
Underglow is a purely aesthetic effect, where lights are attached to the undercarriage of a vehicle. These lights are most often used in compact and sports cars and were popularized in part by films about street racing.
Is After Market Lighting Illegal?
Lightbars are legal in most provinces and states, though there are restrictions on what can be installed and how they can be used. This is because powerful lights on public roads at night can disorient and temporarily blind oncoming traffic, which is a safety risk for everyone on the road. Many areas require lights to be certified to be used and properly installed, so there is no risk of parts flying off your vehicle on the highway. When you are off-road, using light bars and fog lights is legal in most areas, though you should check to make sure the exact rules in your region.
Underglow lighting is illegal in Alberta and can be restricted in other parts of Canada and the United States. This is because many drivers find underglow distracting and may interfere with visibility. Red, blue, and green underglow can also be confused with police vehicles or traffic lights. Some provinces and states have rules about where underglow can be placed on a car. Breaking these rules can result in severe fines, so be sure you understand the law before investing in accessories.
Working with Professionals
It is challenging to offer thorough answers to questions about external lighting because laws and regulations vary from province to province and state to state. What is entirely legal in one region might not be allowed in another. Talk with local auto professionals with expertise in after-market lighting to ensure you adhere to all applicable laws.
Auto professionals can also work with you to find accessories to match your vehicle, preferences, and budget. Any vehicle customization offers many options, and many amateur car enthusiasts don’t understand the law. Talking with an auto professional is the only way to ensure you get precisely what you want.