The Dark Side of Off-Road Vehicle Lights

Off-Road Vehicle Lights

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.

Off-Road Lights

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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29 Responses to The Dark Side of Off-Road Vehicle Lights

  1. Anonymous on March 18, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    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.

    • Anonymous on April 12, 2016 at 8:18 am

      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!

      • tranbceditor on April 12, 2016 at 10:02 am

        Thanks for your feedback. You are correct – fog lights should be properly installed and used only when foggy conditions are present.

    • Randy on January 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      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

  2. Anonymous on March 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    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.

    • tranbceditor on April 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      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. 🙂

  3. Anon on April 1, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    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.

  4. Pete on April 12, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    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!

    • tranbceditor on April 14, 2016 at 9:38 am

      Hello Pete,

      Thanks for letting us know. We have sent your comment to the CVSE for follow up.

    • tranbceditor on April 18, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      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.

      • Anonymous on January 3, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        What brand light bars are these then, if they’re compliant with being uncovered I’ll replace mine.

        • tranbceditor on January 4, 2017 at 1:37 pm


          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.

  5. Sigma Safety Corp. on April 13, 2016 at 8:10 am

    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.

  6. Nate on October 24, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    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.

    • Anonymous on November 26, 2016 at 2:17 am

      Nate, if you rely on your illegal lightbar to avoid hitting wildlife, you are driving too fast for conditions, brother.

      • Anonymous on January 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

        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.

        • tranbceditor on January 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm

          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!

        • John on February 7, 2017 at 12:54 pm

          Putting LED or HID bulbs in headlight housings not designed for it is not allowed but good luck getting that enforced.

    • John on February 7, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      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.

  7. Mark on October 30, 2016 at 12:12 am

    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.

    • tranbceditor on October 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comments and for connecting with us here. We have shared your comment forward for consideration. Safe travels.

  8. Steve on January 10, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    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.

    • tranbceditor on January 11, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your feedback. We have shared it forward with the CVSE.

  9. Anonymous on January 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    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.

    • tranbceditor on January 25, 2017 at 11:08 am


      Thank you for your feedback. We have shared your comment forward with the CVSE for review.

    • tranbceditor on January 26, 2017 at 10:50 am

      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!

      • John on February 7, 2017 at 1:16 pm

        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.

  10. Jimmy Rey on February 8, 2017 at 12:01 am

    I really appreciate the insight here in this post and wanted to say thank you for sharing it.

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