By Rudy Serra
Q: My son returned from a visit with his cousin, and now he wants to install neon lights on the under-carriage if his car. Are those even legal? What about interior neon lights? What else should he know about tricking out his car?
Answer: The Dream Cruise is only a few months away. Welcome to convertible season and Daylights Savings Time. The law says you cannot install lights on a motor vehicle unless “expressly required or permitted” by the motor vehicle code. Otherwise, the law requires that such lights “are both covered and unlit.” Who wants to buy lights they have to keep both unlit and covered?
Neon undercarriage lights are not required. They are not mentioned in the motor vehicle code. Although they are not expressly forbidden, they are also not expressly permitted. This means that you can install neon under-carriage lights, but you cannot use them at any time that the car is on a public street. You cannot drive with such lights on. Your son can display the lights only while parked.
The law is also very specific about what color lights can be used in or on a car, and what direction they can be seen from. The only color lights that may be visible from the front of a vehicle are white or amber. If you can look through the windshield and see blue, red, green or other lights in the passenger compartment, it is a violation. Interior neon lights, therefore, would be subject to the same rules as exterior. You would need to be parked.
The only colors that may be visible from the rear of a vehicle are red or amber. On the sides of your vehicle in back, you can display only amber or red. On the sides of the front, anything other than white or amber is a violation.
According to the Michigan State Police: “No other colors are allowed and if any permitted color lamp is visible from any direction that is not allowed then it cannot be equipped that way. If the lighting causes a visual impairment for the driver or is potentially distracting, then such lighting is unlawful. Finally, like exterior neon lighting, there is no provision within the Michigan Vehicle Code that allows the use of interior neon lighting. Ultimately, it will be a matter for the courts to decide.”
Even neon license plate frames are regulated. They must be covered and unlit any time the vehicle is being driven, and they cannot obscure any information on the plate.
JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. This ¨ask the lawyer¨ format column welcomes questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.