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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Tennessee Headlight Laws: Is It Illegal to Drive with High Beams on in TN?

High beams are a type of headlight that can illuminate the road surface up to 350 to 400 feet in front of the driver. If there are no streetlights on, these lighting devices can help motor vehicle operators avoid hitting other animals, pedestrians, and objects.

As such, they're typically used on low-traffic rural roads when it's dark. However, high beams pose risks to other vehicles because they can be blinding.

To increase safety and reduce the number of car accidents, Tennessee has imposed laws on the use of specific headlights, including high beams. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help answer is a golf cart street legal in TN?

What Do Tennessee Headlight Laws Say?

What Do Tennessee Headlight Laws Say?

Per Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles, any motor vehicle traveling on state roads is required to have at least two headlights, and this equipment must function properly. Otherwise, drivers could be pulled over, ticketed, or even face penalties.

However, not all types of headlights are legal in this state. Tennessee has also defined rules and restrictions on the use of these pieces of equipment, requiring motor vehicle operators to follow some guidelines to increase visibility and reduce glare. Therefore, it's important to take enough time to review and understand these laws.

Can People Drive with High Beams on in Tennessee?

Technically, people can use high beams when driving through dark rural roads in Tennessee, especially if there are no streetlights on. However, motor vehicle operators are required to switch to low beams if they're approaching a car from behind or if there's oncoming traffic.

Moreover, Tennessee drivers should turn off high-beam headlights in urban areas, as state laws require motor vehicle operators to switch these devices to the proper setting according to the following factors:

  • Location

  • Visibility

  • Weather

  • Time of day

When Are Drivers Allowed to Use High Beams?

Under Tennessee laws, headlights cannot emit a glaring or dazzling light. These devices must be constructed, aimed, and adjusted in a way that they project sufficient light to render clearly discernible an individual 200 feet away under normal weather conditions and on a level road.

In other words, high beams can only be used if it's strictly necessary and if this doesn't pose a safety risk to other drivers. Motor vehicle operators should consider using them only on:

  • Rural or mountain roads as long as they turn off these headlights if there's an oncoming vehicle or they're approaching another car

  • Street or roads with insufficient or no lighting

  • Open highways if there's no traffic

However, Tennessee laws require drivers to dim headlights and switch to low beams within 500 feet of another vehicle. It's essential to make sure the light distribution is so aimed that the glaring rays aren't directed into the eyes of the person who is operating the oncoming car. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions like what does a personal injury lawyer do?

Other Important Headlight Rules and Restrictions Drivers Should Consider

Besides the ones mentioned above, there are other headlight rules and restrictions drivers must abide by when operating motor vehicles on Tennessee roads. These are:

  • Motor vehicles must have at least two but a maximum of four headlights, including one on each side of the front of the car.

  • A non-emergency vehicle cannot install emergency flashing light systems, including wig-wag, strobe, and other flashing lights within the vehicle's grill area or headlight assembly.

  • Only a school bus can use a flashing light within the headlight assembly, such as a wig-wag lighting system. However, this is only allowed when drivers activate the vehicle's visual stop signs to receive or discharge children.

  • Cars can have auxiliary road lighting lamps, but no more than two may be on at one time in addition to the two required headlights.

  • When approaching another vehicle, auxiliary lamps or spotlights shouldn't be so aimed that the high-intensity portion of the beam is directed beyond the left side of the car upon which these devices are mounted or more than 100 feet ahead.

  • Cars traveling through Tennessee must have two red tail lamps and two red stoplights on the rear, as well as one tail lamp and one stoplight on each side. This provision doesn't apply to any passenger motor vehicle manufactured or assembled before January 1, 1939, and some trucks, motorcycles, and motor-driven cycles.

  • Only an emergency vehicle can install emergency light systems, if flashing, in areas where there should be a factory-installed emergency flasher, tail light lamp, backup light, or stoplight.

  • In Tennessee, drivers can only use headlights that emit white or amber light. Other colors, such as yellow, blue-green, or red, are illegal in most cases.

  • Using red or blue flashing emergency lights or a combination of both is an offense. Only certain officers and government workers can do this.

  • An emergency rescue vehicle owned by specific parties, as defined by law, a school bus, a passenger motor vehicle operated by a rural mail carrier of the US postal service, and other emergency vehicles can display steady-burning red lights, but this is prohibited in other settings.

  • Authorized law enforcement vehicles can use a combination of red, white, and blue lights.

  • Emergency equipment company vehicles aren't subject to the same headlight rules, but operators must meet other requirements, such as making sure the vehicle is displaying lettering identifying the company name on both sides. The lettering must also designate it as a "Demonstration Vehicle," but this information must be on the front and rear of it.

  • An emergency equipment company vehicle could display steady-burning lights on the front, even if they aren't amber or white, outside of a public road.

This is just a summary of the headlight laws Tennessee residents and visitors must obey, as there are other important regulations. Therefore, it's essential for drivers and car owners to review Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles.

What Happens If Someone Ignores These Laws and Hurts Another Person?

What Happens If Someone Ignores These Laws and Hurts Another Person?

Using high beams when it isn't permitted is an offense and can be punished as a Class C misdemeanor, which means those who violate these laws could spend up to 30 days in jail.

Victims are also entitled to compensation and can initiate legal proceedings to hold at-fault parties accountable for their negligent actions. However, it's important to contact the top personal injury lawyers in Nashville to build a solid case and achieve the best possible results.

Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!

At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, our legal team has extensive experience handling car accident cases involving the illegal or inappropriate use of high beams. Those who have been injured in similar incidents can contact us and get the legal advice they need today.


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