Can Your Headlights Be Too Bright & Is it Even Legal?

I want the brightest lights possible. But can I do it?

Are there laws that dictate how bright your lights can be

We all know the experience of driving late at night and suddenly feeling like a “deer in headlights” after a car with a particularly bright pair of lights drives past us. Laws were put in place in order to prevent drivers and the sometimes dangerous side effects of blinding headlights.

The majority of car headlights are halogen bulbs, available since 1962. Premium cars, and even some mainstream vehicles, have high-intensity discharge lights made from xenon. Then, we have LED lights, which can be as bright as the sun. LED lights are much brighter than halogen headlights. Their brightness levels are measured in lumens and can range from 6000 LM up to 12 000 LM

Do those laws vary much from state to state?

The Department of Transportation has a bureau called National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, and this falls under the Executive branch. They make laws that determine road safety standards. Regulating headlight brightness falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal l Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 108. The federal standard for headlights brightness is dictated in the  FMVSS 108 which is what is adhered to in most counties states.

 For example, New York State says that headlights can’t be more than 32 candlepower, an obsolete unit of measurement that nearly every headlamp exceeds. In California, the maximum lumens is set at 2513. Certain states vary on whether or not they have auto inspection laws. If they don’t, then they must rely on the driver being pulled over at night for having headlights that are too bright. States do vary on what type of headlights are legal and what color. For example, it may be legal to only have white headlights, and not blue.

As a rule of thumb, the FMVSS 108 says that any headlights installed should meet and not exceed the factory recommendations for the vehicle with the bulbs it came with. An added note is that they should not dazzle other drivers. This means that in almost every circumstance, unless the car had LED lightbulbs with it, it is against the law to upgrade and it is in many circumstances up to the discretion of an officer whether or not they ticket you.

Is it against the law to have really bright headlights

Yes, it is against the law to have headlights that are really bright. States have different laws about it, and in most states, any high beam light should be dimmed within driving 500 feet of another vehicle. Most cars have halogen bulbs that have a maximum of 1,200 lumens.

What about fog lights or light bars (can they be brighter than your headlights)?

In states where fog bars are legal (they aren’t in many states) there are limits to where and when you can use the fog bar. Most of the time, you can only use them when it is foggy. They are allowed to be brighter than the headlights, but again, this depends on the state that you live in because many do not allow cars to have light bars.

How many lumens bright is illegal for headlights?

Is it illegal to have too bright of headlights? It causes a road hazard where people are looking at the lights and not at the road. It can also create a shadow or blurred effect after the car drives away. With nearly 75% of drivers requiring vision adjustment, many people’s eyes are too sensitive to handle extremely bright lights.

Is 6000 lumens bright for headlights

LED lights that are this bright are often an aftermarket part that has a ballast in it that helps to throw the light brighter. They can create a light that is so bright that the meters at safety check stations are broken from the intensity that is emitted.

As LED lights are more than twice as bright as halogen lights, replacing lights with HIDS uses headlights that are too bright for most drivers. The casing in the headlight is not designed to house and reflect the extremely intense lightbulb and as a result, it reflects all over the road.

Is 3000 lumens bright for Headlights

3000 lumens is too bright for a pair of headlights, which is set at a limit of about 2000 lumens. It may be acceptable for a light bar if it is permitted in your state.

Right now, there are no federal laws that dictate the precise number of lumens that are allowed for a pair of headlights. This is up to the discretion of the individual states, and while some states have stricter vehicle inspection laws and wattage laws, others do not have the same level of oversight. Be sure to consult with your local DMV and see what the current laws are.

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