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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Tennessee Headlight Laws: What Is the Brightest Headlight Bulb That Is Legal in TN?

In most states, including Tennessee, all vehicles operated on public roads must have working headlights. This rule applies to every motor vehicle traveling on any state road, highway, or street under government control.


Such laws are found in Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles. Anyone living or driving through this state should be familiar with the regulations regarding the use of vehicle headlights.


Besides understanding the headlight requirements for motor vehicles, people should also review the laws regarding the types of equipment that are illegal in Tennessee. Many stores within the state offer non-traditional headlights with uncommon colors.


However, a driver could be violating these laws by choosing headlights that are too bright or that emit a prohibited color. This article explores such regulations to help people understand the requirements and restrictions on their motor vehicles' lighting equipment.


Examining Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles


As mentioned, headlight laws are found in Tennessee Codes Title 55, Motor and Other Vehicles. These regulations state that all motor vehicles operated on public roadways are required to have headlights.


Why Should Vehicles Be Equipped with Headlights?

Headlights are indispensable safety features, as they allow drivers to see the road ahead when there's dusk or insufficient natural light. They also help motorists stay in the correct lane and spot other cars.


As such, these pieces of equipment can prevent motorists from colliding with another vehicle, smashing into a person or object on the side of the road, and veering off the roadway.


Since they make cars visible to others, headlights are also beneficial for oncoming vehicles, bicycle riders, and even pedestrians crossing the road.


As soon as the person who is driving the oncoming vehicle, riding the bicycle, or crossing the road sees the headlamps, they'll know that a car is approaching and may be able to move off the road if the driver fails to see them.


Understanding Tennessee Headlight Laws

Understanding Tennessee Headlight Laws


According to the laws regarding the lighting equipment required on motor vehicles traveling on Tennessee roads, every car must be equipped with at least two headlights. This rule applies to all motor vehicles except the following:


  • Motorcycles 

  • Road machinery

  • Road rollers

  • Farm tractors 


However, vehicles shouldn't have just any type of headlight. There are specific requirements for these pieces of equipment.


What Is The Brightest Headlight Bulb That Is Legal in Tennessee?

Each motor vehicle traveling on Tennessee road must have a maximum of four headlights at one time, but they shouldn't be brighter than 300 candlepower. This applies to auxiliary lamps and spot lamps.


Regulations As to Color, Type, and Visibility Distance


In Tennessee, headlights must meet specific quality standards and be approved by vehicle manufacturers. Also, cars shouldn't use faulty equipment that could put people's safety at risk.


Moreover, this state has imposed laws regarding the maximum brightness and color of headlights, as motor vehicle owners and operators must ensure they don't blind or dazzle other drivers or pedestrians.


Tennessee laws state that headlights must be calibrated to avoid such scenarios and the possible resulting accidents. Additionally, vehicle owners must get this equipment adjusted or install state-approved anti-glare devices if they're too bright.


How Many Headlights Should Motor Vehicles Have in Tennessee?

Under Tennessee laws, motor vehicles should have at least two and no more than four headlights. Owners should make sure there's a working headlight on each side of the car they're operating.


When Should a Vehicle's Headlights Be Turned On?

Tennessee Code Sections 55-9-401 and 55-9-406 define the times when headlights must be turned on, explaining that this is required within what is known as "headlight hours."


In this state, drivers are required to keep their headlights on from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. However, this rule only applies if they're driving under normal conditions.


If visibility is low, no matter the time, motor vehicle operators should always turn on their headlights. This rule must be followed when there's insufficient light, specifically when there's rain, smoke, fog, snow, or sleet.


Using headlights is mandatory any time any precipitation, including rain, snow, or fog, requires motorists to use windshield wipers constantly.


In fact, headlight laws state that motor vehicle owners must have these pieces of equipment constructed, arranged, equipped, aimed, and adjusted in a way that produces sufficient driving light to meet visibility requirements.


Visibility Requirements

According to Tennessee law, headlights must provide sufficient driving light to make a person discernible 200 feet ahead under normal atmospheric conditions and on a level road.


However, it's essential to prevent these pieces of equipment from projecting glaring or dazzling light to people in front of them.


Types of Headlights Vehicles Can Have in Tennessee

In Tennessee, motor vehicles can have at least two but no more than four headlights at one time. Additionally, cars should have two tail lights and can use two auxiliary driving lights.


However, if a motor vehicle is equipped with extra lighting, no more than four front lights can be used at one time while driving on a state road.


Hazard lights are allowed under specific circumstances. Motor vehicle operators can only use them in an emergency.


Types of Headlights That Should be Avoided

In this state, only an emergency vehicle can use or install emergency flashing light systems. Otherwise, operators would be breaking Tennessee headlight laws and could be subject to penalties.


These are the types of lighting systems that a non-emergency vehicle cannot operate or use in Tennessee:


  • Wig-wag lighting system

  • Strobe lighting system

  • Blue flashing emergency lights

  • Blue flashing emergency lights combined with red flashing emergency lights

  • Other flashing lights within a car's headlight assembly or grill area


However, there's an exception for school buses, as these vehicles are allowed to use these systems to increase safety when receiving or discharging school children.


In this regard, a school bus may use flashing, wig-wag lights within its headlight assembly whenever the vehicle's visual stop signs are activated to receive or discharge passengers.


What Color Lights Are Allowed in Tennessee?

While cars were allowed to have different colored lights and even tinted headlights in the past, things have changed as new laws have been imposed.


Since 2018, motor vehicles traveling on Tennessee roads are only authorized to have headlights that emit white or amber light. This new law banned any other color, which means a car cannot use equipment that emits red, blue, green, or yellow light.


Exceptions to Legal Headlight Colors

Tennessee laws explain that installing, maintaining, or displaying blue flashing emergency lights or blue flashing emergency lights combined with red flashing emergency lights is considered an offense.


However, there's an exception to this rule. This type of lighting system can be used but only by the following parties:


  • Commissioned members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as long as their official duties are required as defined by law

  • Uniformed law enforcement officers of Tennessee, if salaried and working full time

  • Uniformed law enforcement officers of a Tennessee county or city and municipal governments, if salaried and working full time


Using Multiple Beam Road Lighting Equipment

If a car's road lighting equipment is so arranged that the operator can select between two or more light distributions, there are other important requirements that they must meet during the times when lights are required.


These rules apply when drivers can select at will between various distributions of light emitted from headlights or lamps, auxiliary road lighting lamps or lights, or a combination of both options if directed to different elevations.


Below are such requirements explained:


  • Drivers should use an upper distribution of light if there's no oncoming vehicle within 500 feet. However, motor vehicle operators should make sure they can use a lower light distribution if it's required due to weather, dust, and other atmospheric conditions that pose safety risks.

  • If the car is within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, the operator must use a light distribution so aimed that prevents glaring rays from being directed into the eyes of the oncoming driver.


Can Tennessee Drivers Use LED, Tinted, or Neon Under-glow Lights in Their Cars?

As mentioned, a new law came into effect in 2018, banning any light color that was not white or amber. Therefore, drivers shouldn't display colored LED lights, which are often used by younger people for decoration purposes.


Since these lights are often used for decoration rather than visibility, they can be distracting and lead to catastrophic car accidents. That's why Tennessee doesn't allow motor vehicle operators to use them.


On the other hand, there's no information about neon under-glow lights, as this topic isn't addressed in Tennessee codes. Many people think that this omission means they're legal.


However, drivers should avoid using under-glow neon lights, especially if they're blue or red lights and flash or if they aren't sure they're safe to turn on while on the road.


Possible Penalties for Violating Headlight Laws in Tennessee


In Tennessee, a person who violates headlight laws could face misdemeanor charges. Penalties vary depending on the offense but may include 30 days in jail.


As explained above, drivers are legally required to use headlights during rain and under other specific atmospheric conditions. If a person breaks this rule when operating a motor vehicle on a state road, they may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor under Section 55-9. 406.


Police officers can stop vehicles if they spot any issues with headlights and are authorized to perform an inspection to determine if there are glaring or dazzling lights. If the driver refuses to undergo this check, their behavior itself may be considered a Class C misdemeanor under Section 55-9-410.


Drivers can also get pulled over if they fail to use headlights during times when emitting sufficient light is required or if they have headlights that are too bright, exceed the 300-candlepower limit, or are of illegal colors.


When a driver is stopped because a law enforcement officer discovered that they were operating a vehicle with headlights or anti-glare devices that don't meet quality standards or state regulations, a "fix-it" ticket may be issued.


Motor vehicle operators who receive this ticket have up to 24 hours to fix the issue, which means they must repair or replace the faulty equipment as soon as possible. Otherwise, they could face legal trouble.


Under certain circumstances, drivers who receive a "fix-it" ticket for operating a vehicle with improper headlights or prohibited equipment must appear in court and prove that they have complied with the police officer's requirement to fix the issue.


If the headlights drivers are using when stopped by the police office meet quality standards and are state-approved but need to be adjusted, they'll be required to correct this issue within 48 hours. Moreover, they must obtain a compliance certificate, which can be requested at one of the state's inspection stations.


Although Class C misdemeanors are considered the least serious of these types of charges, and offenders can often avoid jail time, they're still a big deal. This conviction may appear during a background check. Unfortunately, this means that convicted people may experience collateral consequences that can affect their lives, including the following:


  • Difficulties in finding or keeping certain jobs

  • Loss of scholarship money or financial aid from the university or college that the convicted individual attends

  • Difficulties gaining admission to a particular educational program or facility, from courses of study to universities or colleges

  • Inability to find a place to live, such as an apartment for rent


While a Class C misdemeanor usually carries the mildest punishments, a conviction for this offense can lead to up to 30 years in prison according to Tennessee laws.


Car Accidents Involving Headlight Law Violations


Unfortunately, the consequences of violating Tennessee headlight laws don't just affect the offender. Failure to comply with requirements regarding the use, quality, and type of lighting equipment that motor vehicles must use may pose safety risks to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.


If a vehicle doesn't have adequate headlights, other drivers, riders, and pedestrians would not be able to see them, which can set the stage for catastrophic accidents and cause serious injuries or property loss.


However, people who commit headlight law violations can be held accountable for their negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. As mentioned, they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to 30 days in jail. Moreover, victims can take legal action to seek compensation, which can cost negligent drivers hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Those who have been injured in an accident caused by a driver who failed to use the required headlights in their vehicles can fight for their legal rights, hold at-fault parties responsible for their actions, and pursue compensation for the damages and losses they suffered. This is a legal right.

However, the litigation process can be stressful and time-consuming, as is negotiating a fair settlement with an insurance company. Therefore, injured individuals should contact an experienced attorney to handle their cases.


Why Do Victims Need Help from an Experienced Attorney?


According to the latest reports from the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 19,515 people died in car crashes in the first half of 2023 alone.


Although that figure represents a 3.3% drop compared to over 20,000 fatalities recorded between January and June of 2022, the number of deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents is still high.


These figures suggest that car accidents can happen at any time. Sadly, most of them are caused by drivers' negligence, carelessness, and failure to comply with rules, quality requirements, and safety guidelines, including those concerning the use of headlights.


However, Tennessee and other states have imposed laws that everyone must follow while behind the wheel to avoid these accidents. If someone fails to do so and causes a crash, victims are entitled to compensation and can initiate legal action to hold them accountable for their behavior. Therefore, they have the legal right to contact an attorney.


A car accident attorney can advise victims on the steps to build their cases and guide them through the entire legal process, helping them understand their rights and the Tennessee legal system.


What Car Accident Lawyers Can Do for Victims


Filing a car accident claim can be stressful and time-consuming for most people. However, an aggressive injury lawyer in Nashville with experience in these cases can handle the legal process and related tasks, allowing victims to focus on their recovery.


In this regard, this is what an attorney with experience in car accident cases can do for victims:


  • Investigate the case

  • Collect evidence to prove liability

  • Interview witnesses and collect testimonials from experts

  • Gather important documents, such as medical bills and police reports

  • Handle negotiations with insurance companies

  • Design effective strategies to present the case

  • Offer legal representation to victims if the case must be resolved in court

  • Prove damages to help victims recover compensation

  • Help victims file a personal injury lawsuit for the car accident before the statute of limitations ends

  • And more!


Reasons Why It's Necessary to Contact a Lawyer

Reasons Why It's Necessary to Contact a Lawyer


What should people who are injured in an accident involving a vehicle with faulty, inadequate, or missing headlights do? Should they contact a lawyer? These are the reasons victims should seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney:


  • The process is stressful: Victims often watch their medical bills pile up as they deal with the pain their physical and psychological injuries cause. Additionally, they have to negotiate with insurance companies, collect evidence, and handle many other tasks, which makes this process so stressful. However, lawyers can handle all of this.

  • Injured people need time to recover: Car accidents can cause painful injuries. In some cases, they may even be disabling. However, victims usually spend a lot of time doing paperwork to build their cases. Fortunately, attorneys can handle the legal process while they focus on recovery.

  • Headlight laws can be intricate and confusing: Regulations regarding the use of headlights can be difficult for most people to understand, but attorneys know how the Tennessee legal system works and can explain everything victims should learn about this topic.

  • Good representation increases the chances of winning negotiations and cases: Although attorneys cannot guarantee a specific outcome, having an experienced professional by their side can help victims increase their chances of winning negotiations with insurance companies or getting a favorable verdict if the case goes to court.


How Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Can Help


If injured in an accident caused by a car with overly bright or unlit headlights, people can take legal action against the at-fault party to hold them accountable for their negligence or failure to comply with Tennessee laws. However, they need help from an experienced attorney. This is where Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys comes in. They can also advise on questions such as can people with one eye drive in TN?


Our legal team understands that car accidents can be devastating and affect victims' lives forever. We believe it isn't fair that a person's negligence, carelessness, and recklessness harm others! That's why our attorneys are willing to help injured people and guide them through the legal process to achieve the best possible results.


At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, we can help victims build solid cases to prove that the person who caused the accident broke the state's headlight laws and is responsible for their damages. They can also help with questions like is it illegal to drive without a bumper in TN?


Our lawyers also know the best tactics that could help injured individuals recover the compensation they're entitled to and are ready to implement them to make sure their legal rights are respected.


Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!


Injured in a car accident involving headlight law violations? Our legal team is ready to help victims build a solid case to hold at-fault parties accountable for their negligence.


We have extensive experience handling car accident cases, including those caused by drivers ignoring regulations, quality standards, and safety guidelines regarding the use of headlights in motor vehicles. Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys today!

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