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“Dressing” your car

This article will address two laws. The first is Colorado’s existing law regarding lighting equipment on cars, which is routinely being violated throughout the state. The second is a new law addressing obstructive material on license plates.The Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) must approve all lighting equipment on cars. The law states that DOR may approve or disapprove lighting standards, specifications of lighting devices and their installation, adjustment and aiming and adjustment when in use on a motor vehicle. In other words, DOR has the final say about any lights that are on a car in motion in Colorado. Without formal approval from DOR, a lighting product may be illegal.In recent years, product manufacturers have introduced a wide array of after-market vehicle lighting products. Neon undercarriage lights, uniquely colored brake lights, signal lights, lighted valve stem caps and scrolling message boards affixed to rear license plate brackets have become popular attachments to almost any style of vehicle, many of which are illegal. Many of these after-market lighting products can cause confusion to other drivers and can be a distraction.With the exception of “street rods” equipped with “blue dot tail lights,” a vehicle’s rear lights are to be red or amber in color or any shade of color between red and amber. The exceptions to red or amber colored lights on the back of a car are back-up lights and license plate lights, which must be white in color. Vehicle lights on the front of a car shall be white, amber, or any shade of color between white and amber. All lights must be non-glare.It is acceptable for a vehicle to have a neon light, mounted, one on each side of the undercarriage along the running board, displaying a non-glaring light with the color spectrum between white and amber. As long as the bulbs from these types of lights are not visible to other drivers, these lights are permitted. The neon blue and green etc. colored lights that are commonly seen on cars around town are illegal. For example, a colored neon light on the back of the vehicle (other than red or amber), a colored neon light on the front of the vehicle (other than white or amber), any color electronic scrolling sign attached to a license plate frame or the bright colored pin lights (other than amber or white) that are often attached on the hood near the windshield wipers are all a violation of law.Second, we have a new law in Colorado, effective Aug. 1, 2004, which makes it illegal to cover the front or rear license plate of your vehicle with any material. Specifically, the law requires your license plates to be free from any device or substance that causes all or part of the license plate to be unreadable. This allows citizens and law enforcement to readily identify cars in hit and run accidents, incidents of aggressive driving and any system used to automatically identify a car. This means that the colored, smoked and tinted plastic license plate covers are not legal. The license plates are required to be in good condition, free from foreign materials and clearly legible. There shouldn’t be anything covering your license plate, and the license plate should be legible and in good condition.The penalty for any type of lighting violations is not a moving violation and will cost you $18.60. A small fine is used to bring drivers into compliance with the laws and to eliminate the distraction to other drivers.The penalty for having an obstructed license plate is much stiffer. At $116.60 and three points against your driver’s license, this is a significant violation. However, this penalty can be avoided by making sure your license plate is legible, uncovered and remains unobstructed. Having an obstructed license plate is a much more serious violation because the law is designed to prevent the concealing of information that may be necessary in an emergency.

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