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An underglow light is a neon tube or LED attached to the bottom of a car, truck or motorcycle to illumiate the ground beneath it and thus add a little flair to its appearance. Many states have outlawed underglow lights, and others have passed laws affecting the rights of drivers to use underglow lights on the road. Ohio, for instance, has passed many laws on automotive lighting over the years, and several of them apply to underglow lights.
Laws on Underglow Lights
As of July 2011, Ohio does not outlaw a driver from installing lights under his car to illuminate the road beneath it, but those lights must not flash, rotate or impair the vision of other drivers. The purpose of these restrictions appears to be to prevent motorists from mistaking any car not used by fire, law enforcement or civil maintenance for one used by such organizations and granting the driver of that vehicle special privileges normally given to public servants.
An Ohio State Highway Patrol officer can stop any vehicle and can then impound that vehicle upon deeming it unsafe. He can do so, however, only to enforce established laws on vehicle safety; in the absence of a clear regulation against a specific customization on a vehicle, he may have to leave the vehicle in the possession of its owner. Given Ohio's lack of laws against underglow lights, police in the state may have difficulty preventing even cars with some unsafe forms of underglow lights from remaining on the road.
Laws on Unsafe Car Lights
Ohio law does permit drivers to have spotlights on their cars, but it does not permit any driver from shining such a light at other drivers. Therefore, the mere installation of even high-intensity underglow lights may not be illegal, but a driver can face a $150 fine for activating any light diminishing the ability of other drivers to see.
Defenses for Unsafe Lighting
Ohio law provides no excuse for unsafe lighting. Even a driver from another state or one operating a vehicle from another state cannot use the registration of his car as an excuse for not following Ohio driving laws. A driver using underglow lights as emergency lights may be able to claim that as a defense, but such a driver would have to be breaking no other traffic regulations while using those lights, making his arrest unlikely.
The Law Specifics
Maryland state law prohibits colored lights other than amber, yellow and white on a vehicle that is not an emergency vehicle or other vehicle authorized by the state to have the colors in their lights. In fact, altering the colors of the lights on your car is not allowed in the state. Maryland Statute 22-205 (b) states that all lights must be at least 15 inches from the ground. This rule makes underglow lights illegal in Maryland.
What is Allowed?
You can have a running board light under statute 22-221(b). The only colors allowed are white and amber. The law doesn't allow glare from the running board light.
The penalty for driving with underglow lights in Maryland is a fine of $40 to $50 and a traffic citation, according to the Berwyn Heights Police Department. Police have the authority to pull over a car displaying the underglow lights in order to issue a ticket.
Buying the Lights In Maryland
The Berwyn Heights Police Department urges customers to follow the law and not the retailer. Some aftermarket parts stores will sell the underglow systems, despite their being illegal. Customers who buy these kits cannot avoid a ticket using the excuse, "I bought it from a Maryland retailer." Police will ticket you for the underglow lights, a moving violation. Contact local law enforcement with questions on the legality of aftermarket car parts.