A vehicle in America is often far more than just a method of transportation. For many, their choice of a vehicle announces to the world the owner's character or how they wish to be viewed. Some opt for sober elegance, others put safety first, while still others – including many young people – want cool cars that attract attention. This often includes the installation of neon aftermarket lights, better known as underglow lights – nonstandard neon or LED lights that attach to the underbody of a car, truck or motorcycle.
In some states, underglow car lights are not permitted. But drivers in the state of Georgia will find that they are allowed on vehicles in the state unless the express language of the law forbids them. Georgia law prohibits several colors of lights, as well as moving lights.
Neon Underglow Lights
Underglow lights have their fans and their detractors, but it's hard to deny that they are eye-catching at night. Since the lights are attached to the underbody of the vehicle, at night they create a pool of neon light coming from the beneath the car.
These lights can be riveting, and this element of distraction is the reason why many states enact laws prohibiting them as unlawful vehicle modifications. When other driver's turn to stare at the puddle of neon under the vehicle or the soft, eerie glow inside tire rims, they take their eyes off the highway. This can mean more accidents on the roads.
Illegal Hues in Georgia
Georgia takes another approach. State laws do not make neon lights under cars or on vehicle tire rims illegal. Rather, they prohibit certain colors of lights, and these colors are forbidden whether the lights are neon or not. The installation of any aftermarket or discretionary light on a car is perfectly legal unless the lights are in the prohibited colors.
What hues are off limits? Don't pick underbody lighting that is red, blue, green or purple for a Georgia car. Lighting in these colors is forbidden on any vehicle that is not an emergency or police vehicle. It appears that the Georgia legislature wanted to reserve these colors for emergency vehicles rather than to allow other cars or trucks to have similar lights. That means that underglow lights or regular lights that are red, blue, green or purple will get the driver a traffic ticket in Georgia.
What about underglow lights that can emit a range of different colors? If purple, red, blue or green lights are included in that range, the lights are illegal. And that is the case even if the driver never turns the neon lights to the forbidden colors. Under Georgia statutes, any vehicle that is equipped with underglow lights that can emit these forbidden colors violates the code.
Flashing Body Lights
Simply avoiding certain colors of lights doesn't mean that a car will be street legal. Georgia also prohibits all vehicle lights that flash, turn or move in any way. Even yellow oscillating lights can result in a violation. These laws do not apply to, or prohibit, blinking or flashing parking lights on a vehicle. Nor do they prohibit flashing brake lights or directional signals on any motor vehicle.
However, the laws do not apply to every car and every driver in Georgia. They apply only to private vehicles on public roads, so if someone is driving on their own land, they can employ these lights. And police, fire and emergency vehicles are excepted; they are entitled to use flashing lights. Construction vehicles, tow truck drivers and taxis might also qualify.
LED Light Bars
Light bars are a bar of LED lights that are often mounted to a vehicle's grille or on the top or bottom of a windshield. They are popular off-road modifications, since they provide bright, direct light. The extra illumination improves visibility and can make the off-riding experience safer.
Despite this, many states make LED light bars illegal because they can blind oncoming drivers on highways and roads, making them dangerous. They are often termed "auxiliary" lights, meaning front lights in addition to headlights. The most common auxiliary lights are fog lights, passing lights, driving lights and off-road lights.
In Georgia, only two auxiliary fog lights are permitted per vehicle and must be mounted on the front, 12 to 30 inches above the ground. Vehicles can have one driving light as well, mounted between 16 and 42 inches from the ground, and one passing light located 24 to 42 inches above the ground. But off-road auxiliary lights are not specifically mentioned in the code.
Penalties for Lighting Equipment Violations
If a law enforcement officer sees a vehicle that violates one or more of these lighting laws, they can stop the vehicle and issue a ticket. If the vehicle has an underglow system that is outside the law, the driver may be given a nonmoving traffic violation. They can be hit with a fine, as well as a requirement to modify the car to conform to standards. In addition, driving a vehicle in Georgia that is not up to code can be treated as a misdemeanor.
Displaying vehicle lights in colors that are prohibited may lead to additional penalties and fines. The driver could be charged with impersonating an emergency vehicle, a very serious crime with hefty penalties.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.