The MGA With An Attitude
Fog lights, Driving lights, Headlamps

At 01:22 PM 12/9/03 -0500, Nadia Zelikovskaya wrote:
>"I saw that you were from Illinois and I was wondering: do you know what the current Fog Lamps regulations are there?"

Nothing special or specific to the state that I know of. If your car conforms to federal standards in effect at time of manufacture, your car will be legal in Illinois. Also nothing retroactive, so fog lamps are not required on older cars. If you install fog lamps on a car which did not originally have them, then there are a few general guidelines.

Wide beam fog lamps should be mounted below the bumper, aimed straight forward and slightly downward. The flood lamp beams will cover the road a short distance ahead of the car and somewhat to the sides, so you can see the lane markings and road shoulders. They are not ever required to be turned on. When you do want to use them, they can be used with or without the headlights being turned on. When fog is right for use of the fog lamps you would never want to use high beam headlamps. In severe fog you might even leave the headlamps off to reduce glare and use only the fog lamps (at significantly reduced road speed).

Pencil beam lamps are more properly called "driving lights", not fog lamps. These are intended to supplement long distance vision in clear weather. They should be mounted above the bumper, aimed straight forward and either dead level or slightly downward (never to the left). Like headlights, the top of the beam should be no higher than level with the road so not to blind oncoming drivers. They will light the road straight ahead only, nothing to the sides at all. Using them in foggy conditions is counterproductive, as they will produce more glare and probably reduce vision. They also are never required to be turned on. They will be required by law (if it should even be enforced) to be connected to the headlight dipper switch high beam circuit, to actuate on the high beam setting only. That way when you dip your headlights for an oncoming vehicle the driving lights go out. Logically this means that they will not work unless the headlights are turned on, and switched on to high beams. Thus they are supplemental to the high beam headlights. They can be powered via a relay, but the relay should be triggered by the high beam circuit. You can of course install an in-line switch to turn off the driving lamps when high beam headlights are on.

There is some upper limit to the power allowed for driving lights, and I believe it is something less than 100 watts. That is, 100 watt driving lamps (pencil beam spot lights), or even 100 watt headlamps would be illegal for use on the highway in Illinois. If you have 100 watt (or greater) lamps, and intend to use them for off road only, or only in other states where they might be legal, then you have to have covers installed on them at all times on the road in Illinois, at all hours of the day or night. As 100 watt or greater bulbs would be strictly for off road use in Illinois, there is no restriction for mounting location, so you could mount them below the bumper, above the bumper, on the roof or on top of a roll bar if desired. Any location higher than the normal headlight position is an attractive nuisance, so watch out for the cops.

If you are careful not to EVER inconvenience other drivers on the road, you might get away with bending the rules a little. For instance, some years ago I was doing a lot of driving in heavily fog prone rural areas in the dark before dawn and after dusk. I mounted pencil beam driving lights below the bumper and wired them on a totally independent circuit, so they were not tied to operation of the headlights. In heavy fog I would use parking lights with no headlights, and switch on the low mounted driving lights to pierce through long distance below the fog with very little reflected glare. It worked absolutely wonderful, and I hardly ever needed to slow down for fog again.

I did have one minor incident with a cop, but didn't get stopped or ticketed. One time I forgot to turn off the spot lights when I merged onto a 4 lane interstate highway with moderate traffic and wide grassy median. From at least a mile away there was a cop coming from the other direction incessantly shining his spotlight in my eyes until we had passed. Not sure if he was trying to read my license plate number, or just trying to get me to switch off the spot lights. But it was an effective reminder, and I did kill the spots and turn on the normal headlights (low beam of course).

That is something you can definitely get ticketed for in Illinois, especially if you might accidentally do it at a time when it's convenient for a cop to pull you over. The only half safe way to treat that setup is to wire the spots into the high beam circuit, and even then you still have to remember to turn them off if there is any other traffic on the road. Just having 100 watt lamps on the car without covers is illegal in Illinois. If you get stopped for anything at all, and a cop happens to notice that, they can impound the car until the illegal lamps are either covered or removed from the car. If you have the covers with you, you might get away with only a ticket and a stern warning. If you don't have the covers with you, you're just screwed, because I doubt the cop would be patient enough to stick around while you remove the lamps from the vehicle.

In my case the driving lights were only 60 or 65 watts (yes pencil beams), so not illegal without covers. If ticketed I might have gotten a ticket for failure to dim the lights for an oncoming vehicle. Or if the cop was more ornery, maybe a ticket for illegal installation of the lights, including the low mounting location and the fact that they weren't connected to the dipper switch. Pleading ignorance and being very cooperative and apologetic might help your case (before the ticket is issued), but no guarantee. So if you are installing any lamps at all in addition to original standard equipment, you would be well advised to pay close attention to keeping them all in working order and properly aligned to avod drawing unwanted attention.

On another line of thought, suppose you were to install normal looking headlamps which happen to have a 100 watt high beam (not quite a spot light beam), or these European E-spec headlamps with the bright beam and sharp horizontal upper cutoff line. Those are both technically illegal in Illinois, but I have never heard of anyone getting ticketed for either one. In other words, if they look like normal headlights, the cops will likely never notice. Cops are usually happy if you have two headlights the actually light up and don't blind anyone.

Hope this helps?

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