Underglow Laws in Maryland

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Neon underglow is a system of LED lights placed beneath a motor vehicle. While on the roadway, these lights make a vehicle look as though it's floating. Maryland vehicle laws do not specify this accessory in the state code, but there are restrictions around what lights and colors can be on a vehicle.

Vehicles cannot display a red or blue color, or have flashing lights, as they can be mistaken for law enforcement or emergency services. If a driver isn't aware of the law regarding vehicle lights, they may end up getting a citation.

What Are Underglow Lights?

Neon underglow lights are aftermarket LED or nonstandard neon lights that attach to the undercarriage of a vehicle. People who use underglow lights use them to showcase their car, truck or motorcycle. However, some believe they are a safety feature, particularly motorcyclists who ride at night. All states have vehicle lighting laws, some of which cover neon underglow lights and other types of lighting that aren't standard to the vehicle.

The laws covering neon underglow lighting and other modifications vary from state to state. These include:

  • Aftermarket lighting.
  • Vehicle equipment regulations.
  • Ground-effect lighting.
  • Lighting equipment or lighting reflectors.
  • Vehicle accessory specifications.

Prohibition Against Certain Colors of Vehicle Lights

Vehicle lighting laws exist to keep drivers safe. While Maryland state laws do not prohibit underglow lighting outright, they restrict the types of colors or kinds of lights a driver may use.

Most states accept yellow and amber lights on aftermarket lights, but not red or blue as they can be mistaken for those on law enforcement vehicles. Similarly, blinking or flashing lights may be banned, as they are often associated with emergency vehicles.

Are Underglow Lights Legal in Maryland?

While Maryland law doesn't expressly say that afterglow lights are illegal, it regulates certain modifications:

  • Lamps or illuminating devices that project a beam with an intensity higher than 300 candlepower (3770 lumens) must be directed so the beam doesn't strike the road more than 75 feet from the vehicle. This rule excludes auxiliary lamps, flashing front direction signals, headlamps and spot lamps.
  • A driver cannot take a vehicle on a roadway with any lamp or device displaying a red or blue light from the center front of it.
  • Lights and reflectors mounted on the rear of a vehicle must display or reflect a red glow. Stoplights or other signal devices can be red, amber or yellow.
  • Lights emitted by a backup lamp must be white or amber.

Prohibition Against Flashing Lights

Maryland prohibits flashing lights. Vehicles in the state must have at least two headlights, but not more than two spotlights and two fog lights. To protect motorcycle operators, they may use:

  • Blue dot illumination.
  • Standard bulb running light.
  • Light-emitting diode pods and strips.

Equipment Restriction in Maryland

A Maryland vehicle may not have:

  • More than two fender or side cowl lamps that give off a white or amber glare located at or near its front.
  • More than one running board lamp emitting an amber or white light without glare.

A vehicle can have one or more backup lamps. These can be separate or in combination with other lights, but they cannot be lit when the vehicle is in a forward motion. License plate lamps must illuminate the plate with a white light. Vehicle lights in Maryland also have height requirements:

  • Headlights (two minimum): 24-inch minimum, 54-inch maximum.
  • Taillights (two minimum): 15-inch minimum, 72-inch maximum.
  • Parking lamps (two minimum): 15-inch minimum, 72-inch maximum.
  • Side marker lamps (two): 15-inch minimum
  • Reflex reflectors: 15-inch minimum, 60-inch maximum

Headlight Rules in Maryland

Maryland states that all vehicles, with the exception of motorcycles, should have a minimum of two headlights. One of each must be located on either side of the front of the vehicle and emit white light only. Every motorcycle in Maryland must have at least one headlight, but no more than two.

Headlights or the auxiliary lights or a combination of the two on vehicles (with the exception of motorcycles) must be placed to allow the driver to distribute light projected to different elevations if they so choose.

Penalties for Light Violations

A lighting law violation is typically a civil infraction and a non-moving traffic violation. A driver will receive a ticket from law enforcement if their vehicle's lighting violates traffic or modification laws; in most instances, this will be a "fix-it" citation. This allows the driver to remove or correct the violation. After they do, they can show the court or DMV that the issue was fixed and have the ticket dismissed.

If the ticket is not a "fix-it" ticket, the offender typically responds by:

  • Admitting responsibility and paying the ticket fine.
  • Admitting responsibility with an explanation and paying the ticket fine.
  • Denying responsibility and asking for an informal hearing to explain the circumstances with no legal representation.
  • Denying responsibility and asking for a formal hearing where a prosecutor must show the driver violated an ordinance or law with legal representation for the offender.

Consulting With a Maryland Attorney

While many states allow for some type of aftermarket lighting on vehicles, their laws may not apply specifically to neon underglow lights. Maryland is one such state – its law doesn't expressly say if a driver can or cannot use afterglow lights.

People in the state will likely continue to add them and possibly be in violation in some manner. If Maryland drivers wish to avoid getting a ticket for underglow lighting, they should speak with a traffic ticket attorney in their area.