Is this a familiar scene from your childhood?
You all pile in and set off home. And while you are tired, you’re also bored and restless. So you start looking around for something to occupy you.
You spot the interior light above you in the car. You flick it on so that you can finally see in the dark. Then, absent-mindedly you flick it off again. Then on. Then off.
“WILL YOU TURN THAT BLOODY LIGHT OFF?!” one of your parents shouts, “It’s illegal to have it on while I’m driving — the police will pull me over.”
So you flick it off for good — after all you don’t want to be arrested on the way home.
Cut to 10 years later and you’ve got your own car. One of your mates is looking for something down the side of the passenger seat. They flick on the interior light to see better.
You flick it back off again: “Can’t have that on while I’m driving, it’s illegal.”
This law is so ingrained in you that you remember it from your childhood.
So what if I told you it was a load of rubbish?
Believe it or not, there’s no law that prohibits driving with the interior light on!
We may have been told it as kids, but it’s probably got more to do with keeping us quiet than it has with the letter of the law!
What Does the Highway Code Say About It?
Absolutely nothing! There’s no mention of driving with your interior ceiling light in the Highway Code.
What’s the RAC’s View?
The RAC goes into a little more detail on the matter:
“There’s no law against driving with interior lights on. But if a police officer pulls you over and adjudges your interior light to be a driving distraction they could ask you to turn it off, or even charge you with careless driving.”
So as with many of these grey areas, there’s no strict law that prohibits having your interior light on, but if it’s proving to be a distraction — or a police officer feels it’s negatively affecting your driving — they make ask that you turn the light off.
What Does is the Law Actually Say?
Point 2d of the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 states:
No vehicle shall be fitted with a lamp which is capable of showing any light to the rear, other than a red light — except light to illuminate the interior of a vehicle.
So it’s actually stated in black and white that you’re permitted to have the interior light on.
Although if your light is miraculously bright enough to disturb yourself or other drivers, you could be prosecuted for careless driving:
It is illegal to drive or ride a vehicle dangerously on the road or without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other road users.
You could be breaking the law if, while driving or riding, you are guilty of having your attention diverted by a distraction inside the car.
So there you have it!
But just remember, if you do put your interior light on, make sure you switch it off when you get out if it doesn’t do this automatically.
Although it’s not a huge power guzzler, the light still uses energy so could drain your main battery if left on for too long.