Is It Illegal to Drive With Your Interior Lights On?

I’m going to let you guys in on something I used to be pretty particular on back in the day. Driving with my interior lights on. I know, it’s crazy but I used to go crazy when someone turned it on. Mainly because I thought it was illegal and I was going to get in trouble for it. After many years that side of myself has gone away and it doesn’t bug me as much. Nevertheless, I have never figured out if it was illegal or not. So here I am on this journey and this is what I have found out.

No, it’s not illegal to drive with your interior lights on. In fact, there is no mention of interior lights in any driving laws. That being said, it can be distracting for both you and other drivers on the road. So while it may not be illegal, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and turn them off before driving.

When you begin to continue reading I’ll explore how to do this safely and maybe some interesting stories around the idea.

What Do The States Say?

There really isn’t much state law around this topic. Though California does have a law regarding red and blue interior lights, which states it is illegal to drive with them on. This is because these colors are often associated with emergency vehicles and can be mistaken as such.

Interior light distractions

However, even without specific laws, driving with interior lights on can still be considered distracted driving. It can take your focus away from the road and potentially put you in a dangerous situation.

I would almost bet like in our Barefoot Driving article, if you were to cause an accident because of your interior lights that it could bring on some type of charge. Though it’d be interesting to see how each state would respond to that.

Does LED vs Regular Make a Difference?

You may have noticed that a lot of newer cars come with LED lights for the interior. Many argue that this doesn’t cause as much distraction because they are not as bright. Though I still personally turn mine off before driving, it’s worth mentioning that some people may not see it as a big deal.

Some people also argue that having subtle lighting can actually help them see inside the car better. Whether it be finding something they dropped or being able to read a map easier.

The Dangers Of Driving With Your Lights On

Through the years I’ve only had my interior lights on a handful of times, and during those times it wasn’t for too long.

While having my lights on I did notice a few specific dangers:

  • Harder To See: When I had my interior lights on it was quite difficult to see outside while I was driving. It was like there was a reflection off of my windshield which only showed me driving. It was an odd experience.
  • Dashboard and Gauge Lights: Another distraction that I noticed, was that my dashboard and gauge lights were not as bright. Making it harder for me to see my speed or any potential warning signs.
  • Distracting Other Drivers: This may be a bit of a stretch but I also feel like having your interior lights on could potentially distract the drivers around you. Especially if they see the lights on and are wondering why.

How To Drive Safely With Your Lights On

There are moments when you need a light on, its happens and I understand it. Though I don’t condone you driving with your lights on I want to help you do it safely.

Here are some safety tips:

  • Turn off your interior lights before starting to drive
  • If you need a light while driving, try using a small flashlight or invest in some LED car lights – Avoid having the lights on for extended periods of time
  • Keep your attention on the road and avoid any distractions


In conclusion, it may not be illegal to drive with your interior lights on but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. It can be a distraction and potentially dangerous for you and other drivers on the road. So turn off those lights before driving and stay safe out there!