Which Vehicle Headlights Are Illegal in Tennessee?

The state of Tennessee requires all vehicles to have working headlights, per Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles. Drivers can certainly be pulled over and ticketed for not having operating headlights, but what types of headlights are illegal in Tennessee? It is important to understand these laws because there are many retailers, both in stores within the state and online, that advertise the sale of more non-traditional headlights and headlight colors.

What Headlight Laws Say

When we examine Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles, we can see that headlights are required on all motor vehicles that operate on public roadways in TN. However, drivers cannot have just any type of headlight on their vehicles. Headlights that are not functioning correctly or that do not have the legal color can create significant hazards on the roadway. Additionally, drivers that only have one operating headlight can cause dangerous situations by throwing off other drivers’ perspectives during the evening, nighttime, or early morning driving.

In Tennessee, any headlights on a vehicle must be of a quality approved by the motor vehicle manufacturer, and they must work properly. The headlights are required to be calibrated in such a way that when the low beams are on, they do not blind other drivers or pedestrians. 

Drivers may only use headlights in Tennessee that emit a white or amber light. A new law went into effect in January of 2018 that banned every other color, such as red, blue-green, or yellow, from use in headlights unless the vehicle is an emergency vehicle.

When do Headlights Have to be in Use?

The second part of the Tennessee headlight laws lays out what times the headlights are to be used. 

Any motor vehicle traveling on a state road or highway, or any street under the control of a government entity within Tennessee is required to have headlights on from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. This rule is in place when individuals are driving under “normal” conditions, but when visibility is low, drivers are required to use their headlights regardless of the hour. This can include conditions such as fog, smoke, rain, snow, or sleet.

Drivers are also required to use their headlights anytime there will be insufficient light for the driver to see a person on the road at a distance of 200 feet away.

Penalties for Headlight Violations in Tennessee

If a person violates the headlight laws in Tennessee, they could face a misdemeanor charge. For example, the failure to operate headlights during the rain is considered a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee, and that conviction could bring up to 30 days of jail time.

Police officers can also stop drivers for having headlights that are too bright or the wrong colors. If a driver refuses to cooperate with an inspection of their headlights, the refusal will constitute a Class C misdemeanor.

If a driver is found to be operating their vehicle with anti-glare devices or headlights that have not been approved by the state, the police officer will typically give them a “fix-it” ticket that gives the driver 24 hours to fix the issue or replace the faulty equipment. Drivers may have to appear in court in order to prove they complied with the ticket.

If you have been involved in a vehicle accident, contact our Nashville car accident lawyers today.