Many drivers try to make their truck or car look more fashionable by installing after-market exterior lighting on the vehicle. Additional high-beams, oscillating fixtures and even neon underlighting may be sought to create a very distinct appearance. However, Michigan law has clear prohibitions on what types of exterior lighting may be added to a vehicle and any violations can lead to fines, license sanctions and possibly jail.
MCL 257.698(4) states that, "[u]nless both covered and unlit, a vehicle operated on the highways of this state shall not be equipped with a lamp or a part designed to be a reflector unless expressly required or permitted by this chapter or that meets the standards prescribed [by federal law]". The permitted lighting on a motor vehicle are as follows:
- "A motor vehicle may be equipped with not more than 2 side cowl or fender lamps that emit an amber or white light without glare." MCL 257.698(1).
- "A motor vehicle may be equipped with not more than 1 running board courtesy lamp on each side that emits a white or amber light without glare." MCL 257.698(2).
- "Backing lights of red, amber, or white may be mounted on the rear of a motor vehicle if the switch controlling the light is so arranged that the light may be turned on only if the vehicle is in reverse gear. The backing lights when unlighted shall be covered or otherwise arranged so as not to reflect objectionable glare in the eyes of an operator of a vehicle approaching from the rear." MCL 257.698(3).
- "A lamp or a part designed to be a reflector, if visible from the front, shall display or reflect a white or amber light; if visible from either side, shall display or reflect an amber or red light; and if visible from the rear, shall display or reflect a red light, except as otherwise provided by law." MCL 257.698(4).
Any lighting installed in excess of these requirements is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. In addition, a violation of this statute will also result in two points being added to your Michigan driver's license. Since the statute is silent on permitting neon lights, whether on the trim or the undercarriage of the vehicle, it should be assumed that they, along with any other specifically unmentioned lighting, are PROHIBITED by the cover-all provision of MCL 257.698(4).
Furthermore, MCL 257.698(5) prohibits the use or possession of flashing, oscillating or rotating lights of any color on a motor vehicle unless otherwise provided by law. A violation involving flashing, oscillating or rotating lights is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, or a fine up to $100.00, or both. In addition, a violation of this statute will also result in two points being added to your Michigan driver's license. The use of flashing, oscillating or rotating lights on a motor vehicle are permitted ONLY under the following circumstances:
- "A police vehicle shall be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating red or blue lights, for use in the performance of police duties." MCL 257.698(5)(a).
- "A fire vehicle or ambulance available for public use or for use of the United States, this state, or any unit of this state, whether publicly or privately owned, shall be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating red lights and used as required for safety." MCL 257.698(5)(b).
- "An authorized emergency vehicle may be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating red lights for use when responding to an emergency call if when in use the flashing, rotating, or oscillating red lights are clearly visible in a 360-degree arc from a distance of 500 feet when in use." MCL 257.698(5)(c). However, a person operating the lights on this vehicle if NOT responding to an emergency is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, or a fine up to $100.00, or both.
- "Flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber or green lights, placed in a position as to be visible throughout an arc of 360 degrees, shall be used by a state, county, or municipal vehicle engaged in the removal of ice, snow, or other material from the highway and in other operations designed to control ice and snow, or engaged in other non-winter operations." MCL 257.698(5)(d).
- "A vehicle used for the cleanup of spills or a necessary emergency response action taken pursuant to state or federal law or a vehicle operated by an employee of the department of natural resources or the department of environmental quality that responds to a spill, emergency response action, complaint, or compliance activity may be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber or green lights" ONLY if the vehicle is at the scene of a spill, emergency response action, complaint, or compliance activity. MCL 257.698(5)(e).
- "A vehicle to perform public utility service, a vehicle owned or leased by and licensed as a business for use in the collection and hauling of refuse, an automobile service car or wrecker, a vehicle of a peace officer, a vehicle operated by a rural letter carrier or a person under contract to deliver newspapers or other publications by motor route, a vehicle utilized for snow or ice removal..., a private security guard vehicle..., a motor vehicle while engaged in escorting or transporting an oversize load that has been issued a permit by the state transportation department or a local authority with respect to highways under its jurisdiction, a vehicle owned by the National Guard or a United States military vehicle while traveling under the appropriate recognized military authority, a motor vehicle while towing an implement of husbandry, or an implement of husbandry may be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber lights." MCL 257.698(5)(f).
- "A vehicle engaged in leading or escorting a funeral procession or any vehicle that is part of a funeral procession may be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating purple or amber lights that shall not be activated except during a funeral procession." MCL 257.698(5)(g).
- "An authorized emergency vehicle may display flashing, rotating, or oscillating white lights in conjunction with an authorized emergency light...". MCL 257.698(5)(h).
- "A private motor vehicle of a physician responding to an emergency call may be equipped with and the physician may use flashing, rotating, or oscillating red lights mounted on the roof section of the vehicle either as a permanent installation or by means of magnets or suction cups and clearly visible in a 360-degree arc from a distance of 500 feet when in use. The physician shall first obtain written authorization from the county sheriff." MCL 257.698(5)(i).
- "A public transit vehicle may be equipped with a flashing, oscillating, or rotating light mounted on the roof of the vehicle approximately 6 feet from the rear of the vehicle that displays a white light to the front, side, and rear of the vehicle, which light may be actuated by the driver for use only in inclement weather such as fog, rain, or snow, when boarding or discharging passengers, from 1/2 hour before sunset until 1/2 hour after sunrise, or when conditions hinder the visibility of the public transit vehicle." MCL 257.698(5)(j).
- "A person engaged in the manufacture, sale, or repair of flashing, rotating, or oscillating lights governed by this subsection may possess the lights for the purpose of employment, but shall not activate the lights upon the highway unless" authorized to do so by a police officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, authorized physician, volunteer or paid fire fighter, volunteer ambulance driver, licensed ambulance driver or attendant, a person operating an ambulance or wrecker service, or a federally recognized nonprofit charitable organization that owns and operates an emergency support vehicle used exclusively for emergencies. MCL 257.698(5)(k).
- "A vehicle used as part of a neighborhood watch program may be equipped with flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber lights, if the vehicle is clearly identified as a neighborhood watch vehicle and the neighborhood watch program is working in cooperation with local law enforcement. The lights described in this subdivision shall not be activated when the vehicle is not being used to perform neighborhood watch program duties." MCL 257.698(5)(l).
If your motor vehicle does not meet any of these exceptions, then using flashing, oscillating or rotating lights may be in violation of the law. A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. In the case of a misdemeanor, you will be sent a court date in the mail to report for a district court arraignment and you may have to eventually stand trial on criminal charges. If you are charged with committing these offenses, an experienced traffic lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduction to a no-points civil infraction or obtain a dismissal outright.
If you or a loved one is charged with an exterior lighting violation or any other traffic offense, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak for assistance today.