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Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Lighting 2004

This rule sets out standards and safety requirements for lighting equipment that is fitted to a vehicle (including a pedal cycle), to allow the vehicle to be operated safely and not endanger the safety of other road users.

Rule versions

  • The ‘Current rule’ will give you the most up-to-date version of the Rule and any amendments made to it. We recommend this as your reference point if you want to read the most current information.
  • The ‘Original rule and amendments’ will give you the very first version of the rule (as it was when it was first created) as well as links to all amendments made to it over time. We recommend this page as your reference page if you want to research the history of the rule.

Note: Both of these pages will also provide links to the consultation material – such as summary of submissions and FAQs (questions and answers) – for each version and amendment.

Questions and answers

Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment when they are signed. These and other consultation documents on this page have not been updated to take into account any later rule amendments and are retained for historic interest only.

Land Transport Rules – questions & answers

Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Lighting

1.   What vehicles does the rule cover?

The Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Lighting 2004 (Vehicle Lighting Rule) covers all motor vehicles and also includes bicycles. Most of these vehicles will already meet lighting requirements under existing law.

2.   When will the rule start to apply?

The rule comes into force on 27 February 2005.

3.   Why is this rule needed?

Crash statistics indicate that there are significant safety risks associated with inadequate or missing lights, or lights that dazzle other road users. From 1997 to 2003, problems with vehicle lighting equipment contributed to 441 injury crashes and 35 fatal crashes. These statistics reflect the results of international research, which shows that, although inadequate lighting can make it difficult for the driver to see ahead, excessive lighting or lights that are too bright can also be dangerous because they can dazzle other road users and stop drivers from seeing objects on the road. Vehicle lighting needs to allow drivers to see the road ahead, as well as making vehicles clearly visible to other road users without dazzling, confusing or distracting them. The Vehicle Lighting Rule addresses these issues and reflects new developments in lighting technology.

4.   What current requirements for vehicle lighting does the rule update and replace?

Lighting requirements are currently covered in the Traffic Regulations 1976 (Part VII), the Transport (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 1990, and in notices in the New Zealand Gazette.

Vehicle lights are inspected as part of the warrant of fitness (WoF) and certificate of fitness (CoF) regimes.

5.   What will the rule change?

  • There is now a limit on how many extra lights can be fitted on a vehicle.
  • The use of cosmetic lights (see What are cosmetic lights?) is now controlled by the following requirements:
    • they must be angled downwards
    • they must be fitted so that the light source isn’t directly visible from the front or back of the vehicle (this will prevent the lights distracting, confusing or dazzling other road users)
    • they can only give out light that is spread out (diffuse) rather than light concentrated in a beam
    • they must not be positioned close to mandatory lights such as headlights or indicators.
    • Illuminated signs (eg, advertising signs illuminated by a light inside them) on a vehicle must not dazzle, confuse or distract other road users by being too bright – if they do, their brightness will need to be reduced to an acceptable level.
    • Vehicles that are manufactured overseas to approved European, Japanese, Australian or American lighting standards can now be used without having first met New Zealand ’s domestic vehicle lighting requirements. (Previously, imported vehicles had to have work done on them to meet New Zealand requirements regardless of whether they already met certain overseas standards).
    • Amber beacons are now automatically allowed on vehicles that meet certain criteria (previously approval had to be gained before they were used).
    • A wider range of cycle lights will be allowed.
    • Vehicles with body shapes that make it difficult to meet height requirements for lights can now have lights fitted higher on the vehicle (up to 2.1 metres from the ground).
    • Heavy vehicles and tractors are allowed a greater number of indicators, brake lights and position lights.
    • The angle of dip for dipped-beam headlights has been changed – this means that the next time vehicle owners go in for a WoF or CoF inspection, their dipped-beam headlights may need to be re-aligned to meet the new angle. For most vehicles, this new angle will be the optimal dip angle specified by the manufacturer.
    • The law has been relaxed so that certain damaged vehicle lights do not have to be removed or replaced as long as they are disabled (eg, by removing the bulb). Previously, the entire light had to be removed or replaced.

6.   How do I ensure lights on my vehicle don’t dazzle or distract other road users?

The Vehicle Lighting Rule sets out requirements for ensuring vehicle lighting is appropriate and correctly positioned so that it doesn’t dazzle or distract other road users, while the Road User Rule requires you to operate vehicle lighting in such a way as not to dazzle or distract.

All new and newly imported used vehicles will already comply with the Vehicle Lighting Rule. However, if you are purchasing a vehicle from a previous owner, you should check to see if the vehicle has had lamps replaced or additional lamps fitted. A garage or WoF inspector can confirm whether extra lamps have been fitted and whether they comply with the rule.

If you’re considering fitting additional lamps, it is the responsibility of vehicle lighting retailers to sell you lamps that can legally be fitted to the car for the purpose they are intended (as long as you advise the retailer of the purpose for which you intend to use them). Any person fitting lights on a vehicle (whether an individual or a garage) must ensure that they are fitted correctly, and that their fitting is allowed under the Vehicle Lighting Rule.

More information on vehicle lighting safety is available in NZ Transport Agency’s factsheet on vehicle lighting – available here or by calling 0800 699 000.

7.   What else is in the rule?

The rule also consolidates, updates and clarifies previous legislation regarding lights.

8.   What are cosmetic lights?

Cosmetic lights are additional lights used mainly to decorate a vehicle and make it more eye-catching. They are often neon lights and come in different colours such as blue and purple. Generally, these lights are placed on the front of, or under the vehicle. Cosmetic lights don’t serve any safety function and are not manufactured to standards, so there is no way of being sure they are safe to use.

9.   Are cosmetic lights being banned?

No, cosmetic lights are not being banned but there are now controls on where they can be fitted to vehicles. The rule aims for a good balance between allowing vehicle owners the freedom to use these lights and protecting the safety of other road users.

10.   Why are cosmetic lights being controlled?

If they are fitted in certain positions, they can shine into the eyes of other drivers and dazzle or distract them. They can also confuse other road users if they are mistaken for functional lights such as tail lights, which convey a message (eg, red lights show where the back of the vehicle is).

11.   How can vehicle owners find out more about the new requirements?

The Vehicle Inspection Requirements Manual contains comprehensive information for people wanting to fit additional lights on their vehicle. NZ Transport Agency has also produced a new brochure Get your lights right, which summarises fitting and usage requirements for each type of light.

Vehicle owners can check the legality of the lights on their vehicles during their regular WoF and CoF inspections. For general advice on how to avoid dazzling and distracting other road users, see NZ Transport Agency’s factsheet on vehicle lighting, available here or by calling 0800 699 000.

A copy of the Vehicle Lighting Rule is available here.

12.   What are the benefits of the rule?

  • Safety risks associated with vehicle lighting are addressed.
  • The rule updates the law to cover the latest lighting technology.
  • Compliance will be easier for vehicle importers, and fewer costs will be imposed on them.
  • Cycles will be able to have more types of lighting and this will help improve the safety of cyclists.

13.   What lighting equipment does the rule cover?

The rule covers:

  • head lights
  • stop lights
  • high-mounted stop lamps (eg, in the rear window of cars)
  • indicators
  • position lights (including forward- and rearward-facing position lights on all motor vehicles, and side-marker lights and end-outline marker lights on heavy motor vehicles)
  • rear registration-plate lights
  • reflectors (including bicycle reflectors)
  • reflective material
  • optional lights (such as fog lamps, daytime-running lights and ‘cosmetic’ lights)
  • beacons (such as flashing blue lights on Police vehicles).

14.   How will I know if my headlights are adjusted to the correct dipped-beam angle?

They will be tested during regular WoF and CoF inspections. If you want to view the technical details of this, see the Vehicle inspection requirements manual, which is available on the NZ Transport Agency website in the Resources & manuals section.

15.   If the angle of my dipped headlights needs adjusting, will this cost me extra?

This procedure is routinely carried out as part of current WoF inspections (as headlamps go out of alignment from time to time). Discussions with the vehicle inspection and repair industries confirm that in most cases this is a simple and quick procedure and is often done as a courtesy at no extra charge.

16.   What’s happening with cycle lights?

More kinds of cycle lights will be permitted under the new rule. (For further information, see Where can I get a copy of the rule and more information? )

17.   What do vehicle owners need to do if their cosmetic lighting doesn’t meet the new requirements?

Because there are restrictions on the way that cosmetic lights can be fitted to a vehicle, some may need to be removed or positioned in a way that doesn’t distract or confuse other road users (ie they must point downwards, and not out from the front or back of the vehicle). There are diagrams in the rule which clearly show how these lights must be fitted.

18.   How much will it cost for vehicle owners to comply with the rule?

For most vehicle owners there are unlikely to be any additional costs. In some cases, there may be a small one-off cost to re-align the headlights to new specifications - however initial discussions with the vehicle inspection and repair industries confirm that in most cases this is a simple and quick procedure which is often done as a courtesy at no extra charge. Also, a small number of vehicle owners may need to remove or reposition non-compliant lights that are currently fitted to their vehicle, although owners can usually do this themselves at no cost.

19.   Who will check to make sure that vehicles comply with the rule?

The Police, who carry out regular roadside checks, and agents who carry out WoF and CoF inspections.

20.   Was the rule consulted on?

Yes. There were two rounds of consultation. A preliminary draft of the rule was released in September 2000 for comment by groups and individuals that had registered an interest in the rule. A second draft was released for public comment in November 2003. The submissions received in both rounds of consultation were taken into account in redrafting the rule.

21.   What was the result of consultation on cosmetic lighting?

Most of the submissions wanted the use of cosmetic lights controlled so that they didn’t dazzle or distract other road users.

22.   Does the rule say how lights should be operated?

No. This is covered in the Road User Rule. The Lighting Rule covers the ‘technical’ aspects of vehicle lighting equipment, eg, how a light should be fitted. Both these rules come into force on 27 February 2005.

23.  What will happen if people don’t comply with the rule?

They won’t be able to get a WoF or CoF. If they are caught by the Police in a vehicle that is not up to WoF or CoF standards, they could have their WoF or CoF revoked or be fined.

24.   Where can I get a copy of the rule?

This rule (and other published Land Transport Rules) can be purchased from selected Bennetts, Paper Plus and Whitcoulls retailers, and other retailers that sell government legislation. Alternatively, a copy can be obtained by contacting the printers and distributors of rules, Wickliffe Limited, on Freephone 0800 226 440. Final rules are available on our website.

Last updated: 28 February 2005