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So We’re All OK With Those Giant LED Light Bars?

So I’m driving home the other night from Washington, D.C., which is our nation’s capital, to Philadelphia, which is our nation’s capital of cars parked in the bike lane, and a lifted pickup passed me with one of those giant LED light bars. You know the light bars I’m talking about. They’re huge, they’re massive, and they’re really bright. And everyone seems to be OK with that.

I first noticed this phenomenon a few years ago, undoubtedly at night, undoubtedly when I was blinded by someone with a giant LED light bar coming the other direction. Since then, the LED light bar trend has spread dramatically, almost unbelievably fast, to all corners of the globe. No joke, a few weeks ago I saw a Toyota Previa with an LED light bar mounted on its bumper.

The weird thing about this — and American car laws in general — is that even though these LED lights are about 74 million times too bright to legally be allowed on a vehicle when it’s sold new, they can be added later without any problem. The only exception comes if you’re living in a state with vehicle safety inspections, which most states don’t have — and even then, your LED light bar may be allowed to pass. This is primarily because federal laws about vehicle equipment primarily apply to cars at the point of sale and primarily ignore what happens later. That’s left up to each individual state to legislate and each individual police officer to enforce.

So what happens is these LED light bars are absolutely everywhere.

Beyond the legality of these things, though, I’m surprised at another aspect of the LED light bar: the apparently lack of interest by most members of the public. People complain about everything, especially as it relates to undesirable vehicle modifications: That exhaust is too loud, that truck is lifted too high, that color is ugly, those rims are too big, blah blah blah. And yet I haven’t heard any complaints about the LED light bars. Why is this? Are people just going to let this go completely? Even in today’s age of taking offense?!

I’m tremendously surprised by this, because people seem to be into banning things these days — like train horns on pickup trucks, and "rolling coal," and texting while driving. Obviously, all of these things should be banned, but how have the LED light bars been given a free pass? I would think this is next on the chopping block, but I haven’t seen anyone, anywhere, in any circumstance, fight against them — even though they’re often used on the highway (rather than off-roading, where they’re both intended and helpful), and they’re often mounted at or above eye level for most vehicles.

Naturally, I do not plan to take up this cause, largely because I personally don’t have enough time, what with trying to make it through season five of "Gilmore Girls" by Memorial Day. But you, dear reader, you should pursue this with all your vigor, or at least you should start one of those online petitions that don’t accomplish anything. I would sign it. Assuming I’m not blinded by an LED light bar. Find a car for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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39 COMMENTS

  1. In PA this is already covered long ago in vehicle regulations under auxiliary lighting. Having any “light bar” or any type of extra/off-road lights on and/or uncovered on road is straight up illegal. The regulation is simple and straight forward. It was even future proofed for LED light bar in how it’s written. Other states could simply copy/paste the PA regulation and call it a day.

  2. Doug Demuro I hear you Brother. I was on my way to work and a turd of a truck pulled up behind me. Tail gaiting no doubt. My interior was lit up like the forth of July with blinding light. I just took my foot off the accelerator till he passed me. I was tempted to be way more aggressive. I’m 49 now so can tap the brakes on those emotions much better. Doug… Kudos to all the content your putting out. Just a suggestion, try putting some goofs at the very end of your videos.. I’m sure people would love it. Thanks

  3. Never agreed with Doug before but overall I feel LED light bars are dimmer and more retarded that 2-4 very bright focused high powered lights but still LED light bars are annoying, stupid, ugly and illegal on road use. I’ve seen hundreds of semi trucks with illegal lighting driving around all over the place and they’re not required to dim them either. Ugliest rectangular light I’ve ever seen and not more bright than others.

  4. 90% of people who have them have absolutely no use for them at all. I have 2 on my 97 Grand Cherokee but they are tastefully placed and they get used rather frequently on dark dirt roads, but get turned off the second I see another car coming. I use them on off road trails a lot, too. 1 is mounted to my roof rack and it almost looks like a factory option, and the other one is on my bumper. If you dont need them, dont buy em. I’m sick of ppl buying em just bc they “look cool” bc most of the time, people who have light bars just mount them in really stupid areas and end up never using them…

  5. I’ve seen too many of them in use on the roads of metro Atlanta. They’re insanely bright, and usually not aimed properly. But then there are the people who just think fog lights are ok anytime, day or night, but fail to use them in fog! Or the same people who drive in the pouring rain without any light at all except for their emergency flashers. And apparently in GA there’s no enforcement whatsoever. 

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