Are my additional driving lights legal?
So, you’re not quite sure whether your off-roader’s additional driving-lights set-up is legal in your state or territory? Or if you’re legal when driving that same vehicle into another state or territory?
Well, join the long queue of those who suffer all-pervasive confusion over light laws because it includes every vehicle owner in Australia, every over-worked police officer trying to enforce the appropriate laws, and every government pen-pusher who alters legislation seemingly every few minutes*. (* A slight exaggeration, but the standards have actually been amended six times between August 2007 and November 2017.)
For the purpose of this yarn, when we refer to "additional driving lights" we're talking about to forward-mounted fixed driving lights, including LED light bars.
Here’s our guide to legal light set-ups but, be aware, the laws differ from state to state/territory, they do change and some are open to interpretation, so you’ll need to drive around with your local magistrate on-board just to avoid a fine. Only joking! (Or am I?) Just make sure you stay up to date with the state/territory in which you drive.
The light laws explained
First up, vehicles in Australia must comply with Australian Design Rules (ADRs), which are “national standards for vehicle safety, anti-theft and emissions”, according to the federal government. “The ADRs are generally performance based and cover issues such as occupant protection, structures, lighting, noise, engine exhaust emissions, braking and a range of miscellaneous items.”
According to official speak, ADR 13/00 refers to “Installation of Lighting and Light Signalling Devices on other than L-Group Vehicles 2005”. (L-Group vehicles are two- or three-wheeled vehicles and include mopeds, motorcycles, motorcycles with a sidecar and motor tricycles.)
With regards to laws about additional driving lights, surprisingly, the ACT government nails down a pretty good summation of the rules as they generally apply nationwide at time of writing (late November 2018):
“The ADR now aligns the vehicle safety standards to the international standards of a maximum of four additional lamps, removing the former requirements of lights in pairs of two or four.
“These changes also allow for single driving lamps to be fitted.
“An LED light bar is considered to be one lamp if all of the LEDs operate together. If an LED has different parts or sections that can be switched on or off independent of other parts (sometimes referred to as being switchable) then each independently controlled section counts as a lamp.”
Lights must not be fitted in a manner that they might be considered a dangerous protrusion (i.e. on top of a bull bar). Other requirements for fitting and using driving lamps and LED light bars include:
“The lamp/s must be fitted to the front of the vehicle, symmetrically about the centre;
The lamp/s must be installed in a way that the light produced does not cause the driver of the vehicle discomfort either directly or by reflection from body or bull bars and ladder racks or mirror surfaces;
The lamp/s must only come on when the main-beam (high beam) headlamps are used, and must automatically turn off when the main-beam headlamps are turned off;
No more than four driving lamps may be fitted to a vehicle;
All driving lamps must not interfere with the driver’s field of view;
All forward-mounted fixed additional lights will be considered driving lights.”
Additional driving light laws state by state/territory
To check which locations on your vehicle are legal or illegal for fitment of additional lights in your state/territory, read the info below and check against the diagram, above.
Australian Capital Territory: Placing additional forward-facing driving lights which do not protrude upwards or outwards from your bullbar (1) is legal, but something which protrudes from the top of the bullbar (2) is not legal, nor are lights positioned on the roof or roof rack (3), or on a sports bar if you're driving a ute (4).
New South Wales: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 is legal but we've not yet received a definitive official answer as to whether 4 is legal or not. (If you reckon you know, tell us in the comments section below.)
Northern Territory: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 and 4 are legal.
Queensland: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 is legal but 4 is not.
South Australia: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 and 4 are legal.
Tasmania: 1 is legal but 2, 3 and 4 are not.
Victoria: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 and 4 depend on how bad a day your attending police officer is having. He/she may decide the light's position means it is causing the driver discomfort either directly or by reflection from body or bull bars and ladder racks or mirror surfaces.
Western Australia: 1 is legal, 2 is not; 3 and 4 are legal.
Clear as mud? For a bit more light reading (dad joke!), check out these links to specific state/territory guidelines:
New South Wales: Legislation.nsw.gov
Northern Territory: NT.gov
South Australia: SA.gov
Western Australia: Transport.wa.gov
Keep in mind that standard regulations and laws differ from state to state and territory in Australia and, as mentioned, are subject to amendment, so make sure you are up to date with the laws as they apply to the state/territory in which you reside.
If you're planning to fit additional/aftermarket driving lights to your vehicle, or have them fitted, read through the ADR 13/00 light-installation guidelines and call the authorities to ask for guidance before you start.