Indiana Traffic Laws for Headlights & Tail Lights

By Lee Grayson - Updated June 16, 2017
car headlight broken

Indiana, also known as the Hoosier State, requires only one rear license plate to operate a legally-equipped car. The state's regulations for tail and headlights are more in line with the national norms in setting standards so cars can be seen both going and coming at night. Indiana Code requires lights to be illuminated from sunset to sunrise and any other time when it is impossible to see 500 feet in front of the vehicle.

Headlight Laws

Headlights vary in size and mounting location, depending on the type and age of the vehicle. Indiana law requires all motor vehicles, except motorcycles, to have two operating head lamps using not more than 300 candlepower. One of the lamps must be placed "on each side of the front of the motor vehicle." The height of the lamp must measure "not less than 24 inches and not more than 54 inches" from the center of the headlight, according to Indiana Code 9-19-6.

Off-Road Vehicles Operating on Public Roads

Indiana Code 14-16-1-20 mandates that vehicles used normally for off road activities may also use public roads between sunset and sunrise provided the vehicle has at least one headlight and one tail lamp. Counties may impose additional requirements to the state law provided the laws meet "substantially the minimum requirements" of the state legislation.

Funeral Use

Vehicles leading funeral processions must be equipped with flashing red and blue headlights and be part of the official funeral process. A car serving as a funeral escort may also use flashing amber or red lights to warn other vehicles at intersections and to gain the right-of-way for the funeral procession. Both headlights and tail lamps must also be illuminated while operating as an escort. Violation of this law is a Class C traffic infraction, according to Indiana Code 9-21-13-7, as amended in 1991.

Tail Lamp Laws

Public Law 34-2010, effective July 1, 2010, specifies that "motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, and pole trailers" operating on public highways must have two working tail lamps. Exemptions include truck-tractor combinations, tractors that also serve as semitrailers for operation in farming and vehicles made prior to 1956. Motorcycles and snowmobiles are also exempted from this law. The red light must be "plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear," according to Indiana Code 9-19-6-4. The height of the tail lamp must measure not less than 20 inches and not more than 72 inches from the ground. The tail lamp law also mandates that the rear license be illuminated when operating the car after sunset.

Spot and Fog Lamps

Two additional spot lamps, sometimes called rally lights, and two fog lamps may also be used on autos. Indiana Code 9-19-6-14 requires the lights to be mounted on the front between 12 and 30 inches above the ground. The light direction must not rise above four inches from the exact location of the additional lamp when projected 25 feet ahead of the car. This prevents the light from temporarily blinding drivers in the opposing traffic lanes. The law mandates only four lights operate at any one time, including the two main headlights.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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