People who often drive at night or early in the morning spend most of their time in a dark vehicle, during which time if you need to find something in the back seat or check for something in the glove compartment, a little light (car interior lights) becomes an inevitable requirement.
What are car interior lights? Why do we use them?
All cars have definite standard interior lights that are usually used to find things or read maps in the dark. Let us see different types of standard car interior lights.
- Dome light: These lights are present on the roof in the middle of the car. Usually, when a door is opened, this light turns on automatically. So, these are used as an indicator that the door is open. Rear seat passengers also use Dome Lights for reading at night.
- Map lights: Map lights are two small lights on the roof of a car. As the name suggests, they were designed to help you read the map at night. There are map lights on each side, so the driver or passenger can use them at any time. Like the dome light, the map indicator lights also turn on when the door is open. Two types of map lights are pre-installed in your car, and there is another portable light. One of them is located close to the rearview mirror. Another type is a portable map light that uses a small battery.
- Door lights: Most cars have a light at the bottom of each door. This light turns on when the car door is open, allowing the driver or passengers getting in and out of the car to have a good view of the ground.
- Dashboard lights: The dashboard lights help you see your gauge cluster, such as the speedometer, at night and can often be adjusted to prevent night blindness. Dashboard warning lights are multi-coloured.
- Customizations: Sometimes, cars do not have sufficient interior lighting, so they get interior lighting installed. Today LEDs, fibre optic, and neon lights brighten the interior of the car. It enhances usability and also allows car owners to express their tastes. They are brighter, use less energy, last longer, and are cheaper than traditional bulbs due to their durability.
Now the real question is can we use these lights while driving?
Travelling with the in-cabin lights on at night can be dangerous. Interior lights can affect your vision and, even worse, they can bounce off the wipers, affecting your ability to see the road.
In most cases, it’s the passengers who turn on dome or map lights. They need to locate a phone charger that fell through cracks in the car or read a map. This can be distracting for the driver, but it doesn’t affect passengers in any way, so they don’t think about it.
The in-cabin lighting can be a safety hazard. The purpose of using the in-cabin lighting is to illuminate the innermost part of the car when entering and exiting. These lights do not need to be turned on while driving.
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Is it safe for you to turn on the in-cabin light while driving?
No, in-cabin lights can impair your ability to drive safely. These lights are well-known to create a glare on the front and rear windshields, creating blind spots for drivers. It is especially problematic at night, when it’s raining or snowing when the visibility is already low.
These lights will immediately divert your attention away from the road and other cars, leaving you and your passengers in an unsafe situation.
It distracts not only the person driving but also other drivers. If you see a car driving with the interior lights on, you immediately think something must be wrong. Keeping the in-cabin lights could be potentially harmful as it also distracts the other drivers in the vicinity.
Do not use them under any circumstances while your vehicle is in motion, even when it is being towed!
Is it illegal to drive with in-cabin lights turned on?
No, driving with the lights on is not illegal as no law states whether people can drive with the lights on. Though it is not illegal to have a cabin light on during drives, is it safe? Does this mean that you should do it because it is not illegal?
Lights inside the car distract the driver and other drivers at night. They can also cause reflections on the glass, making it difficult for the driver to see the road. Use the interior lighting only when it is absolutely necessary. This is for your safety.
Chances are, your parents told you as a child that turning on the interior lights of your car while driving is a crime. Though it is not a crime, they were right when they told us not to turn on those in-cabin lights.
Does in-cabin lighting qualify as distracting driving?
Driving distraction kills more than 3,000 people each year in the United States. Distracted driving means driving a vehicle while being focusing on another activity, i.e., texting and driving. Turning on the in-cabin lights is distracting for the driver and other drivers around you.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines any activity that diverts your attention from driving as distracted driving. This definition does extend to the use of dome lights in a car at any time of the day. If the light annoys you or other drivers, it is considered a distraction.
However, distracted driving is generally defined in three categories: visual, manual, or cognitive. The use of dome light can meet all three conditions depending on the situation. It is considered a visual distraction situation if you take your eyes from the road to determine why the dome light is on.
In contrast, using a dome light to find your mobile between the seats is considered a manual distraction. Finally, if the dome lighting makes it difficult to focus on the road and causes an accident, it will be considered a cognitive distraction.
Also, it can be one of the reasons you get yourself in trouble if the police ask you to pull over your car.
Can I get a ticket for using the in-cabin lights in the car while driving?
This question is very general, but the answer is quite simple: no, you cannot get a ticket because the lights are on in your car. This is not an offence, so you cannot get a ticket for having your in-cabin lights on. But you can be fined for distracted driving if the in-cabin lights were the reason you were distracted while driving.
If you get into an accident while the dome light is on in your car, it may be ruled as the cause and lead you with a ticket or liability.
Can you avoid fines when driving with interior lights turned on?
While you can be fined for driving with the interior lights on, this is unlikely. Feel free to drive with the interior lights on when necessary. But these reflections are distracting. Here are a few things you can do to avoid accidents:
- Avoid the standard lights: Instead of the standard bright yellow light, you can replace it with a dim red or green light. These colours allow you to see better inside the car but do not interfere with your night vision. This way, you get the benefits of indoor lighting without distraction.
- Audiobooks or podcasts: Passenger reading is a common source of indoor lighting. Instead of using their eyes, they can use their ears with audiobooks. For one person or the entire car, an audiobook or podcast will delight passengers without the use of light.
- Parking car aside: If you need to turn on the in-cabin lights, why not stop first? In this way, you will avoid the risk of getting fined and car accidents while still being able to use the interior lighting for its intended purpose.
- The torch of your phone: While the interior light illuminates the entire car, the flashlight is a focused beam, so use a flashlight instead of the interior light. We all have phones, so the passenger can use the flashlight in the phone to illuminate without distracting the driver.
Whether illegal or not, this is usually not safe. Any light source inside the vehicle can and often affects the driver’s ability to see through the front window, especially if it is dark outside. How dangerous can it be to drive? And in fact, it is also harmful in other suboptimal visibility conditions such as rain, snow, or fog.
If your car’s lights come on, stop and fix the cause, rather than trying to fix it while driving. A two-minute delay to fix a cracked door that activates the dome lighting will take much less time than a fender bender caused by trying to mend it while driving a car.
Though it is not illegal, it is best to keep the in-cabin car light turned off while driving.