The Dark Side of Off-Road Vehicle Lights

Dark Side

Drivers who operate vehicles off road – working in the bush or enjoying wilderness recreation – now have access to a dazzling selection of specialized off-road vehicle lights and light bars, to brighten their way.

But while these popular ultra-bright lights can be useful and fun, there’s a dark side. We frequently receive reports of motorists and commercial drivers, who are driving on highways with their off-roading lights turned on. Those drivers get a super illuminated view of what’s ahead, but are temporarily blinding others on the road.

An additional danger is that the extra vehicle lighting can create a false sense of security, encouraging drivers to travel at greater speeds. We’ve received reports that some exceed the speed limit, because, hey…”they can see so well now.”

So here’s a reminder that when on the highway, a vehicle equipped with off-road lamps or any lighting device that is not permitted by regulation, must use light covers that block all light output. This safety regulation can be found in the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations Division, section 4.25. We also have information, tips and examples for off-road lamps, general lighting, fog lamps and auxiliary driving lamps in this BC Lighting Requirements Summary.

To ensure compliance with this and many other acts and regulations, our Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) folks conduct both visual and detailed mechanical safety inspections at roadside and at inspection stations. As well, commercial vehicles over 8,200 kg must be inspected either semi-annually or annually, and lighting devices are part of that vehicle inspection. Every year, CVSE, police and other enforcement agencies, also do safety checks focussed on off-road lights mounted on non-commercial and passenger vehicles.

Drivers whose off-road lamps are uncovered while on a highway could receive a $109 fine and be ordered to have their vehicle inspected at a designated inspection facility.

But we urge them to avoid all that, and to simply cover up their extra lights, after working or playing off road. It’s for everyone’s safety.

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Page 1 of 60 comments on “The Dark Side of Off-Road Vehicle Lights”

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  1. Is it possible to follow through with the whole DOT/SAE/UN rules on lighting that BC subscribes to? Only half the story leads to drivers not knowing their full rights to operate these lights legally and effectively.

    • Hi Michael – this is for the Province of British Columbia. For legislation relevant to the United States, we recommend you reach out to your local Department of Transportation.


  3. I live on a forestry road and have people coming at me with be lights all the time? these are public roads too are they never watched? we also have side by sides coming down the road with lights on top too is this legal on forest roads?

  4. I see a lot of replies for and against , we do not need runway lights on any car or truck , however correctly mounted and wired through their high beam only circuit , there is no reason why they are not allowed. Europe is far ahead of the game and permitted as long as they are wired properly. I do believe the high mounted rack lights should be covered ,but lights, either a bar or smaller single lights mounted below the headlight should be permitted,

  5. will a nissan dealer give me a legally acceptable high beam correction readout, taken of a specialized machine or just numbers measured off a wall?

  6. …for court purposes, must I insist off a Nissan dealer, that only high beam testing on special equipment, will be adequate. ….to prove….that those on a Versa, …..were set too low, as it ran over a porcupine/. it took only about 1 1/2 secs. for the black lump, to SUDDENLY Appear out of darkness, strike the front bumper. I already travel that quiet two lane hwy, with extra caution because of deer.

    did I say ‘bumper’, er, …there was none. was passage of mass whilst cracking the lowermost plastic on so called grille, …straight onto the bottom of rad. …leak began gushing the next day, after reaching home/.

  7. some of these ligth bars are listed as “SPOTLAMPS” they are identical in every way to the ones marked off road on the box. However

    section 4.24 mva states we can have 2 spot lamps that dispaly white light and that that the ligth or controls must nor interfere with the driver – and that the light not contact teh windows or mirrors of another vehicle – thats it no mention of covers on them – i have sent an email to cvse for clarification will post back my findings .

  8. I feel as though some of this back and forth conjecture and opinions could be eliminated with one quick google search of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. Or here you go.
    Scroll down to the appropriate section and read the regulations. Our individual opinions are great and voicing them helps make changes but we can avoid arguing, accusing, getting tickets and or putting peoples lives at risk including our own. Know the rules before you play the game;-) Stay safe everyone have a good night.

  9. Wow, lots of entitled drivers on here who feel its their right to speed down the highways at the speed of light because, you guessed it, they have those huge awesome light bars they use properly and once in awhile to “remind others” to turn off their high beams. Bet these same folks argue that photo radar is just a cash grab, and that yellow lights at intersections means “pin it”.

    • Speeding over the road limit is illegal. People will give any stupid excuse, but it is the driver’s responsibility to adhere to the posted speed limit. Blaming lighting for speeding is ridiculous. No better than blaming your tires or your speedometer for speeding.

      High Beaming on-coming traffic is illegal and already regulated. Once again, it is the driver’s responsibility to switch to low beam. Do not blame lights.

      Let us embrace better lighting on the road. Used in a legal and responsible manner better lighting means fewer accidents and close calls. Better lighting means increased visibility while driving. Visibility is a vital condition to driving safety. Hard to see hazards on the road, up-coming signage, wildlife, acts of god, and bad road conditions are all safer when the driver can see better what is coming up ahead.

      Ticket people for high-beaming, improper light alignment, speeding, driving recklessly.

  10. While I agree that there are some who ruin it for everyone else, enforcement should be fair.

    I’m curious whether HID lights fall into this category, as many far exceed allowable limits and often blind other drivers.

    I would love it if CVSE, RCMP and other enforcement agencies could run a blitz campaign, targeting insufficient mud flaps / rock guards, which cause millions of dollars in damage to the windshields (among other things) of other motorists every year. My guess is that this may never happen, as ICBC stands to lose too much money from this.

    • Hi there,

      We shared you comment with the CVSE and they confirmed that CVSE officers check commercial vehicles for legal mud guard use every day. As well, commercial vehicles during their semi-annual inspection have their mudguards checked by the Designated Inspection Facilities to ensure that they meet the standards. Recently the national standard for mudguards on commercial vehicles was amended to make them even lower to the ground than previously required, which should have an even bigger impact on protecting motorists and their vehicles. Hope that this helps!

      • I would love to see Division 4 of the Regulations rewritten to meet newer light technology’s and a Federal change as well to more of a European standard. There are to many people out who don’t have a clue about automotive lighting who figure brighter is better which is not always the case. Maybe a start would be educating drivers about lighting but that usually falls on deaf ears since I repeatedly see drivers driving in the fog and heavy rain with no lights on at all. Maybe fines are what people need to learn what right and what’s not.

  11. Uncoverd lights should be allowed as long as they are on a separate switch than regular lights , If someone drives with them on then they deserve a ticket, don’t ban something because of the dumbasses using them inappropriately.

  12. Although I agree that accessory lights have their place, I don’t agree that simply having the lights mounted & not operating/not coveted on public roads should be something a law abiding considerate driver should be handed a ticket for. That’s a bit Orwellian & over the top. I have an aftermarket heavy duty steel bumper. Now some delicate snowflake is going to claim my truck has now been weaponized for high velocity impacts. Telling me I can’t have lights to improve my safety with proper and considerate use is concerning enough, but handing me a ticket because by lights are a potential irritant to others …. without actually using them on public roads, that’s not right at all.

    • Thats just it, you don’t seem to have any reguard for the people you are supposedly SHARING the road with, you are only worried about seeing better so you can fly down the road blinding oncoming drivers, I recently had a driver come flying up behind me and his light bar wss blinding me from the rear glaring into the mirrors of my passenger car and when I stop at the sign where you cant see the traffic you maybe pulling out in front of I thought he was going to just start pushing me into the intersection just inches off my rear bumper and when i pulled on the road he just kept as close as he could so I pulled over trying to get him to go around me in which he just stayed close behind me not stopping at sign so as i inched up the road trying to see wit him as close as he could get all of a sudden backs up into his driveway so I turned around and drove back by his house to see what he had for lights to be so bright and he came running out of his house scrapping up snow off the ground in his driveway with rocks in it, oh, did I mention, it was snowing very heavily out in an area that rarely even gets snow so I went on my errand and called the police when i got to the stor and told them what happened, they said they were going to talk to him but when I drove back past his house on the way home he was gone so I wondered if anybody spoke with him and figured out later they must have as they calked !e and told me if he did any damage throwing snowballs pzcked with rocks at my car to get them 3 estimates, in which the car was older but. in great condition and now had chipped paint I didn’t care to take it any farther as who knows what he might do as it was obviously all about him and there seem to be alot of people that could careless and the police have to try and catch uo with them, so OH WELL!

  13. Too bad the SAE compliant lightbars suck compared to normal lightbars. I have 2 400 watt 40 inch dual row hyperspot (5 degree fish eye lens) ‘off road only’ lightbars from altered off road in Red Deer. wired and relayed directly to my highbeams. they turn off when highbeams turned off. the amount of times they have saved me from hitting moose and deer on the yellowhead highway between edmonton and kelowna is countless and other vehicles follow me more often than not through the mountain pass while I safely lead the way, and ive never been flashed because.. you guessed it, I TURN THEM OFF WHEN THERE IS ONCOMING TRAFFIC!!. And they help remind drivers coming towards me to turn off their highbeams if they happen to leave theirs on. If more people would treat their off road lights like their highbeams we would have alot less issues with this problem. Normal high beams are marginal at best and SAE compliant auxillary lights arnt much better. Ive seen multiple sheriff police vans in the edmonton area with a pair of 9 inch lightforce or PIAA round spotties on them uncovered. they may want to put covers on them before they try and give me a ticket or else ill gladly drag their asses into court with me lol.

      • Dumbest thing ive ever heard. I consider it a safety hazard to NOT have these lights. Most stock headlights are garbage on all vehicles, they arent bright enough. Moose are black and their eyes do not reflect light with standard headlights. With led lightbars you can see much farther and a much wider path on the highway which minimizes risk of hitting wildlife. Hitting a moose at any speed will result in your death almost 90% of the time. And another problem i have with this is its perfectly ok to put bright led bulbs in stock headlamps and blind people (especially inconsiderate people that dont dim their HB lights) but i cant have a light bar… Makes sense. You see, i dim before i see a vehicle because its the considerate thing to do, with or without a lightbar. And if the lights are not even in use i must have them covered?? Sounds like we live in a police state to me. Not a free country when even something as simple as lights are heavily regulated. So im supposed to just use garbage dim lights because some snowflake doesnt like led? I can barely see 4 car lengths in front of my truck with high beams even with aftermarket bulbs. I consider it a safety hazard to not have these lights.

        • Hi there,

          As mentioned above, some lights are legal for highway use (and therefore don’t require covers) can be installed on vehicles. Compliance with regulations for highway use depends on:
          – How the lights are marked
          – Where on the vehicle the lights are mounted
          – How the lights are wired

          For more information, please contact the CVSE District Office nearest you. Hope that this helps!

    • There is a tonne of compliant lighting out there that will easily light up the road but it is not cheap so there is no excuses there. While I to have a non compliant 21″ light bar wired to my high beams I do know that I could be fined for it will switch to a legal one when I find one that fits my needs.

  14. It’s worthwhile noting that while the vast majority of these LED “light bars” are not SAE compliant and therefore not road legal, there are a few models from one major manufacturer of these types of lights that DO carry the SAE compliance markings required for on-road use. If hooked up correctly (with a relay, connected to your high-beam headlight circuit, so the auxiliary lights can only be turned on when your highbeams are on) these are legal for on-road use. Any good automotive lighting shop will carry these SAE compliant lights, and the SAE marking is stamped on the lens, so you won’t get a ticket as the lights are legal, assuming they are hooked up properly.

  15. On my last trip back from Williams Lake approximately 2 weeks ago, I noticed 3 CVSE vehicles with 20″ light bars on the front and they weren’t covered. So if they are out there enforcing, they better look in the mirror!

    • Hi Pete, We looked into this to confirm that the light bars on our CVSE vehicles are compliant for highway use. The light bars have the required compliance markings for a highway approved device. They are mounted as required by Motor Vehicle Act Regulation – Division 4.

        • Hello,

          Some lights are legal for highway use (and therefore don’t require covers) can be installed on vehicles. Compliance with regulations for highway use depends on:
          – How the lights are marked
          – Where on the vehicle the lights are mounted
          – How the lights are wired

          For more information, please contact the CVSE District Office nearest you.

  16. Commercial Vehicle Safety & Enforcement typically does not deal with non-commercial vehicles due to their policy. However they are legally able to enforce any law under the Motor Vehicle Act to ANY motor vehicle when working with police services. CVSE does make an effort to conduct checks with police services to deal with those jacked up pickups. CVSE is also educating police services on how to spot an unauthorized off road lamp, when a vehicle has an altered suspension more than 10cm requires an inspection etc. Hopefully long term there will be more compliance. So to sum up the vehicles are not “allowed” to be equipped or altered contrary to law.. CVSE just can’t deal with them consistently. Unless they are a National Safety Code vehicle.

  17. My brother is an avid 4 by 4 driver and also works selling car parts.

    One day a customer came into the shop grumbling about getting a ticket for his lights. The customer knew my brother was into 4 by 4ing and seemed to expect sympathy.

    Instead of commiserating with the ticketed driver my brother told him he was an idiot and gave him the parts number for the light covers that would fit his lights along with a price and the selection of colours – off by heart.

    My bro may be a 4 by 4er, but he is a sensible one.

    • Hi Anonymous, Thanks for sharing your story about your brother. Good to know that there are 4 by 4 drivers who are up on the light cover requirements, and people in vehicle accessories retail who are educating drivers and equipping them to be safe and legal. 🙂

  18. the worst perpetrators of these illegal lights are all these jacked up pickup trucks that are allowed on our roads that are also not legal. why do you allow these guys to put on tires lights and suspensions and noisy exhaust that affects all drivers on our roads. all too often i also find it is these guys that tailgate and pass when not safe to.

    • Not everyone that has a lifted truck is Guilty of this! There is a legal height you can lift your truck in BC so I doubt there all not legal. I have no other lights on my truck then the stock ones that came with my truck which was purchased from a dealer already lifted, I think it’s worse when cars and suv shine there bright lights because they think the lifted truck has his on because he sits higher, Im almost tempted to buy a light bar and have it just for the idiots that drive with high beams on or high beam people to prove a point. The other ones that really grate on my nerves is the cars,suv and trucks running fog lights all the time! If I had to guess there is alot more of those out there then lifted trucks!

        • Some of us use our fog lights to see the lines on the road in wet/rainy conditions. Try driving on Brunette Avenue, in New Westminster, or any road in the Greater Vancouver area, when it’s raining. The road lines disappear. Whatever happened to using road paint that was reflective, or repainting the lines more than once every 5 years?

    • Most new light bars do not come with covers and they say nothing about being legal or not to run I think auto parts stores should not be able to sell them without the mandatory covers to make them legal for the street