Are Underglow Lights Legal in New York?
Most underglow lights or underbody lights installed on cars and motorcycles are illegal in New York State, but one type of underglow light is legal. In New York State, you can use under-glow lights only in the color white and only if they do not flash or oscillate.
When Is It Legal to Use Underglow Lights in New York State?
- Only if the color is white and
- Only if the light does not flash, blink, or oscillate.
When Is It Illegal to Use Underglow Lights In New York?
It is illegal to display or use underglow lights (or any other light) on a motor vehicle in New York:
- If the light is any color other than white, or
- If the light is white and blinks, flashes, or oscillates.
You should not turn on underglow lights in any color other than steady white while riding a motorcycle or driving a car.
Tip: If you are stopped while riding with white underglow lights, do not state that the color can be changed or give the police officer permission to attempt to operate the light to see if it can be changed. If the police officer insists on operating the light, you should not physically stop the police officer; however, you do not have to give permission. The police officer will have to prove in court that he/she had probable cause.
Is It Illegal to Install Underglow Lights In New York?
It is illegal to install or mount underglow lights (or any other light) in New York if the light is any color other than white or if the light is white and flashes or oscillates.
Therefore, even if you were not using underglow lights but it was installed on your car or motorcycle, it is still illegal.
Tip: If you are stopped by police, do not state that the color of your underglow lights can be changed.
What NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law Restricts Use of Lights On Motorcycles?
- VTL § 381 Motorcycle equipment. (See paragraph 3); and
- VTL § 375 Equipment. (See paragraph 41. Colored and flashing lights).
NYS VTL § 381.3 restricts the use of lights visible from the front of a motorcycle and states:
“Except as hereinafter provided, only a white or yellow light shall be displayed upon a motorcycle so as to be visible from a point directly in front of the vehicle.”
(The exception applies only to emergency vehicles.)
Thus, it appears a yellow headlight or another type of forward-facing light, such as a fog light, is legal, despite NYS VTL § 375.41 (below).
NYS VTL § 375.41 prohibits affixing and display of lights on vehicles, other than lights required by law. This section of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law prohibits attaching or displaying any color light other than white (except for authorized vehicles). This section also prohibits attaching or displaying a light, including white, which is revolving, rotating, flashing, oscillating, or constantly moving, except an amber light on a disabled vehicle that is restricting traffic.
Thus, even white under glow lights that flash or oscillate are illegal.
Are Multicolored Underglow Lights Illegal in New York?
Multicolored underglow lights are also illegal in New York.
This photo shows one of our clients with multicolored underglow lights on his Harley Davidson motorcycle in the Bronx. He was surprised to learn that his underglow lights are illegal and said he was never stopped or issued a ticket for them.
But police in Suffolk County are known for stopping motorcycles and issuing tickets for underglow lights.
NY Traffic Ticket/Summons for Under Glow Lights on a Motorcycle
At Full Throttle NY/NE Motorcycle Magazine’s Bike Night, a motorcyclist told me he was issued a summons by Suffolk County Police for unauthorized lights on his motorcycle, just down the block from Bike Night at the Tilted Kilt in Farmingdale.
He was riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, is 77 years old, and is a real gentleman. He wasn’t issued a summons because he was being obnoxious. He was targeted by a Suffolk County Police motorcycle checkpoint which was stopping motorcycles on the way to Bike Night.
A few minutes later, a retired Suffolk County detective who is against motorcycle checkpoints was nice and stopped by in his car to tell me that Suffolk County Police set up a motorcycle checkpoint down the road from Bike Night. Besides under glow lights, the police were also inspecting helmets.
The ticket for unauthorized lights on the motorcycle was issued for a violation of NYS VTL 381.3 because the motorcycle had green under glow lights.
The Supporting Deposition accompanying the summons stated:
“The defendant did operate the above described motor vehicle on Northbound SR110 at Schmidt Blvd., Farmingdale, NY, a public roadway, while the motorcycle displayed a green light that was visible from a point directly in front of the vehicle. The operator was not a member of the police, sheriff department, a fire department vehicle, or a EMT vehicle on an emergency call.”
Are Under Glow Lights Legal While Parked in New York?
While it is illegal, it’s likely that a police officer will not issue a ticket for underglow lights displayed while your motorcycle is parked, especially at a motorcycle event like Bike Night. If your motorcycle is on private property or a private parking lot that is not patrolled by police, you can use underglow lights. Don’t forget to turn off your underglow lights when you go back on the road.
Some private parking lots are patrolled by police, and they can give tickets in those parking lots. There are many parking lots on Long Island, NY, that are patrolled by police, such as Costco and Walmart in Westbury, NY.
Just be polite and pleasant if approached by a police officer about your underglow lights, and don’t be obnoxious. You might get away with it.
Are Motorcycle Wheel Lights Legal?
Motorcycle wheel lights would be regulated by law the same as under glow lights, so they would be illegal under the same conditions mentioned here for underglow lights.
An interesting question is whether white motorcycle wheel lights would be legal if they do not flash or oscillate. They could appear to be flashing or oscillating while riding. This is one of those questions that probably couldn’t be answered until a motorcyclist receives a summons for white motorcycle wheel lights, the ticket is contested in court and appealed to higher courts.
Is the Law for Underglow Lights the Same for Cars and Motorcycles?
Yes. New York State law regulating underglow lights is the same for cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
States Where Underglow Lights Are legal
What are the laws concerning underglow lights in other states? One of our clients sent us a link to this website, Motorcycle LED Light Laws Across All 50 States, but you need to verify the information for your state because the information they give for the LED light laws in New York is definitely wrong.
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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles and content on this website, one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.
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Robert Plevy, Esq. is a motorcycle accident lawyer and one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Robert began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.