• Kenneth Powell

Is It Illegal to Have LED Lights Inside Your Car? - Road Safety Guide

Although LED lights provide drivers with several benefits, they are a double-edged sword, as they can sometimes be a bit dangerous to use on the road. This has made many people wonder whether it is legal to use them or not.

Luckily, having LED lights isn't illegal, but some regulations apply. This article will go through everything all car drivers must know before installing LED lights inside their cars and its legal implications.

What Are Car Interior Lights? Why Do We Use Them?

What Are Car Interior Lights? Why Do We Use Them?

People use car interior LED lights to illuminate their cars and help them see in the dark. These lights and bulbs can be found in several designs and shapes to suit your preferred aesthetic. Some of the most common are the following:

Dome Light

Dome lights are extremely common and are placed in the middle of the car's roof. In most cases, they automatically light up when someone opens a door, but they can also be used with locked doors when passengers need to read or search for something.

Map Lights

Map lights are placed on the car's roof and are meant to help drivers read maps during the night and can be used by anyone in the car, as they're commonly installed on both sides of the vehicle.

Door lights

Door lights are placed at the bottom of the door to help passengers get a better view of the ground when exiting the vehicle.

Dashboard lights

Dashboard lights are meant to illuminate the gauge cluster and can be easily adjusted to suit the eye sensitivity of each driver.


The final types of lights that can be installed in cars are customizations, which can be different types of LEDs that enhance your car's interior lighting in whichever way you can think of.

Can I Leave LED Lights on While Driving?

Although it isn't necessarily illegal, driving with your LED lights on can be extremely dangerous and cause fatal accidents, as they can distort drivers' vision and make them get into crashes. In most cases, interior lighting is meant for passengers to check maps and find things laying around in the car, but they need to be aware of whether this affects the driver's eyesight or not.

These lights aren't meant to stay on forever or for extended time periods, so passengers must only use them when they're strictly necessary.

Are Car Interior LED Lights Worth It?

Many people install LED lights because they last longer than regular ones. They can last up to 25 times more than standard lights and are much more energy efficient. This is because 90% of the energy of incandescent bulbs is wasted heat.

Can You Get Pulled Over for Having LED Lights in Your Car?

In most states, drivers won't get pulled over for having LED lights in their cars. However, this will depend on why they're being used. If the police officers notice the driver isn't paying attention, they may pull them over and give them a ticket for distracted driving. Therefore, the best thing to do in these cases is to park the car and check the maps at a safe location.

Five Reasons Why You Might Want Interior LED Lights

LED lights are fantastic alternatives to CFL bulbs, and they have excellent benefits. A few of them are:

Plenty of Interior Lighting

Having proper interior LED lights can help drivers in many ways, such as allowing them to safely get into their vehicles and telling people where they are. This makes them less likely to be attacked by criminals and can be a fantastic perk when packing their car with bags or groceries.

Fun Aesthetic

LED lighting doesn't have to be strictly practical, as sometimes it can be used to decorate cars and give them a certain aesthetic. Some people place LED lights on the floor, door panels, cup holders, audio speakers, etc.

People choose to do this to suit their personal taste and to create a fun environment for anyone who gets in their cars, which is sometimes crucial for people who work transporting passengers.

Customize the Interior

When people buy a car, they may not be entirely satisfied with its look, so they decide to switch up its interior. They might change the car seat's covers or the floor mats, but they can also get a bit more creative and add some color with LED lights that show their real personality.

Make Road Trips More Fun

Road trips can become boring after some hours have passed, which can become a bit of a hassle, especially when having kids. Therefore, to give passengers something fun to do during the road trip, a fantastic idea is to light up the interior with LED lighting so that they can read, write, or even play with coloring books.

Find Whatever You Need

The truth is that sometimes things will get lost inside a car, and depending on a flashlight to find them can be a bit annoying. That's why sometimes people opt for installing interior lighting to keep things tidy and organized.

The Benefits of LED Lights

There are several reasons why people opt for interior LED lights instead of regular bulbs. Some of the most common are the following.

  • They last longer

  • Energy efficiency

  • They don't emit heat

  • Cold operation

  • Cool designs

  • They can be operated through an app

Before settling on a specific type of dome light, drivers should check all the available options to make sure they're choosing the proper interior lighting, even if it means having to modify their car to get a personalized design.

Is It Dangerous to Drive with Interior Lights On?

Although interior lighting can be beneficial in some aspects, some people still claim it can be dangerous. The main reason is that sometimes these lights are too bright and prevent the driver from adequately seeing the road. Still, the truth is that these lights are only dangerous in the following scenarios.

  • When the lights are too bright

  • When the lights have too many colors

  • When the lights are set to a strobe function

If drivers use their standard car lights, such as their mal lights, dome light, and dash lights, there shouldn't be any legal problem. Still, it can be helpful to check local laws once they decide to add aftermarket lights.

One of the main things to consider is to avoid using red and blue lights, as this can look like the driver is impersonating a police vehicle, which could cause them to get significantly high fines.

Rules about LED Lights on the Exterior of Your Car

Interior LED lights aren't the only type of lighting regulated by the government, as drivers need to follow several rules to place LED lights on the exterior of their cars. The most common places to put them are on the car's roof, valve caps, license place holder, and undercarriage.

Drivers must use their common sense when adding these lights and check their state's regulations. Some police officers will stop the car if these lights are on during the night or if they resemble police lightning. In addition, to have roof lighting, drivers must have a valid reason, as these lights can be a potential hazard if they're not being properly used.

Still, other lights have more flexible policies as long as they're not red and blue and aren't so bright they distract other drivers from seeing the road ahead. The lights also shouldn't prevent police officers from seeing the license plate, as this could get the driver pulled over for a warning.

Is It Ever Illegal to Drive with Your Interior Lights On?

Simply having the lights on while driving isn't illegal, but the reason why they're on could get the driver in serious trouble. This is because sometimes these lights are used to read maps or check for things inside the car, which can be considered distracted or careless driving.

Distracted driving is driving while doing any other activity that could distract the driver from the road. This is an illegal act, as it is a potential hazard for everyone involved. Therefore, drivers must always park their cars before engaging in any other activity.

If a police officer sees a driver with their lights on being distracted by anything in their car's interior, they will likely pull them over and get them a ticket for driving while distracted.

Can a Distracted Driving Ticket Affect My Car Insurance?

Although driving with map lights or dash lights on isn't illegal, drivers can still get distracted driving tickets, especially if they're on their phones when driving. This ticket will go directly to the person's driving record, ultimately increasing their insurance rates and premiums.

However, this is only something to worry about if the diver received the ticket in the past five years, as insurance companies only check recent driving history.

What to Do If You Need to Turn Your Interior Lights On

If it is indispensable for the driver to turn their light source on, they should take certain precautions to not get stopped by a police officer. Some of the most crucial things to consider are to park the vehicle somewhere safe before turning the lights on, or at least wait until they get to an area without other drivers so that they can prevent potential hazards.

What Are Custom Interior Car Lights?

Custom interior lights are LED lights inside people's cars that add several benefits, such as the following.

  • They are energy efficient, as they don't need to use the car's battery to work.

  • Interior lights last for much longer than regular lights.

  • Dash lights can make a vehicle much more appealing, which increases its chances of being sold.

  • Underglow lights also help the driver showcase their real personality and feel better when driving their vehicles.

  • It is easy to get creative with LED lights mounted on a motor vehicle, as there are many types and colors to choose from.

LED lighting is commonly used on cars as they're much safer than other lights due to their semiconductor light source and lack of heat, making them a highly efficient option for an overhead light. They're also pretty easy to install.

How to Choose Custom Interior Car Lights

Choosing the right custom car lights isn't as tricky as it sounds, as most LED strips are designed to suit all vehicles. However, authorized emergency vehicles may need specialized LED lights. Another thing to consider is how many lights the driver will be using and the brand. They must pick a brand with good reviews to ensure they get high-quality results and spend less energy.

How to Replace/Install Custom Interior Car Lights

Before reading this section of the article, it is crucial to remember that all cars are different and need drivers to make other steps when installing interior lights. Still, the following list will serve as a general overview of how to install these lights:

Decide Where You Want the Lights

The first step is to plan where the lights will be placed, as they can be virtually anywhere in the car. This will also help determine how many lights are needed to finish the project.

Determine How You Will Install Them

Then, the driver must decide how they will install their car lights. Zip ties and glue are some of the easiest and most common methods.

Collect Materials and Tools

It is also crucial to consider all the tools and materials needed for the installation process. Some of the most common are a crimp tool, a multimeter, a screwdriver, zip ties, electrical tape, etc.

Supply Power

Another aspect that needs to be planned out before installing the car light is its power source. In the best-case scenario, it should be a 2V, which could be directly connected to the car's stereo. However, this lighting can also be connected to the vehicle's fusebox as long as there is a grounding point to connect the negative power.

Install the Lights

Once the light is connected to the power source and placed where it is supposed to be, the driver must place its controller somewhere easy to reach and decide when it should be on to not distract other drivers from the road. If the driver chooses to install newer lighting, they can likely control it through their smartphone.

Test the Lights

Finally, the last step is to check whether the lighting works or not. If it doesn't work, the driver must double-check the previous steps to discover where they made a mistake. Another way to add a safe light is to include fuses to the wiring circuit, as this will make it easier to replace if any light gets damaged.

Can I Legally Customize My Car Lights?

Can I Legally Customize My Car Lights?

All states feature different types of restrictions and regulations regarding car lights, but in most cases, it is entirely legal to modify a car's light. Still, it is crucial to consider the following aspects to ensure no one gets in trouble.

Headlights and Taillights

This type of lighting is usually subject to certain regulations regarding color and brightness.

Color restrictions

Headlights must be exclusively white or amber. Although some states allow DOT-approved blue lights, they actually emit a pure white light with a slight blue undertone.

On the other hand, taillights are much more regulated, as vehicles must only have a tag light and two brake lights. In some cases, a car can feature an overhead light and a truck-bed light, but all of them must be strictly red.

Brightness limitations

This aspect is commonly regulated by federal law, but it can be complicated to explain, as few people know how to measure candelas. Therefore, as long as the light is DOT and SAE certified, it is legal to use in any car in the United States.

Under-vehicle Lighting

Many people have chosen to add neon LED lights under their vehicles to make them more visually appealing, and although some states have laws against this type of lighting, most states haven't spoken against it.


Unless the driver has an authorized emergency vehicle, they shouldn't use fishing or strobing lights. The front lighting of the vehicle should also be exclusively amber or white.


Another common restriction for this type of light is the use of blue and red lights. Some states also demand the lights to remain hidden beneath the vehicle, and they mustn't be visible past 75 feet.

Bottom Line

Knowing which light can be used when customizing a vehicle is crucial to avoid legal issues. That's why here at the Powell Law Firm, we are ready to provide legal advice to our clients and make sure they get a proper car light to stay out of trouble.

If, after reading this article, some car light-related questions still arise, all clients are free to schedule a free consultation with St Louis MO auto accident lawyers, especially if they're facing a legal issue because of their car lighting. They can also help provide answers to other questions such as if having a mattress on a car roof is illegal or if having a train horn for a car is illegal.