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Is My Car Legal?

When your car was new, it had everything necessary to legally drive on the public roads of Clay County and beyond – without any ‘illegal” gadgets. But many of us like to personalize our car by adding items not provided by the factory. This can be risky.

Auto parts stores will gladly accept your money for accessories, but they are under no obligation to tell you that those popular little lights for windshield wipers can get you a $54 ticket. In fact, the store clerk may or may not know any more about the law than you do. Here is a review of some of the more popular after-market add-ons that are no-no’s on the street.

  • License tag frames/coverings. Any tinted covering over the tag itself is off limits on public roads. Even crystal-clear covers are not allowed under state statute. Lights on tag frames are a separate problem: If the light is any color other than red, it’s illegal on the street. And if that light causes glare that makes the tag more difficult to read, it’s illegal as well.
  • Flashing lights. The only flashing lights of any kind that are legal on the street are turn signals and appropriate emergency flashers. “Chasers” and other flashing or blinking lights are not legal anywhere on a car – inside or out.
  • Headlight and tail light covers. If these change the color of the headlight or taillight, don’t use them on the street. Taillights are required to be clearly visible from a distance of 1,000 feet. For headlights, any cover that “alters the headlamp’s visibility” is illegal. High beams must clearly illuminate persons or objects at least 450 feet away; low beams must do that for a minimum of 150 feet.
  • Color of lights. For obvious reasons, it is important for everybody to know immediately if they’re looking at the front or the back of your vehicle. Therefore, red is required for the rear and it must not be visible from any other direction. Rear marker lights must be red; front marker lights and turn signals must be amber. The only non-red lights that may ever be seen from the rear are turn signals, which can be either red or amber; white back up lights; and the white light that illuminates the tag. Only law enforcement vehicles may use blue lights of any kind.
  • Under the car lights. The same rules apply, meaning they can’t be blue, red, or amber. They also can’t blink or flash.

Law enforcement officers are frequently asked, “How can these things be illegal? They sell them at reputable stores.” The answer is, they’re not illegal in the sense that crack cocaine is illegal – they’re just not legal to use on public roads.

The lesson is this: Read the small print for statements such as “may not be legal for street use”, “for show and off-road use only”, or “check local laws before use”. When in doubt – ask! The CCSO Traffic Unit office can be reached at 213-6180. Stay safe and stay legal.

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