Automobile accessories are car parts that generally aren’t necessary for the normal functioning of an automobile. Most car accessories are attachments to the car that serve a decorative or stylistic purpose rather than a practical purpose. Some accessories may be modifications to an existing part in order to make the part more aesthetically pleasing.
Automobile laws prohibit car owners from using or placing accessories on their car that might pose a risk of danger to the driver or to other drivers on the road. Thus, automobile owners should always exercise caution when adding any non-manufacturer accessories to their car.
Illegal automobile accessories contribute to a large percentage of automobile accidents every year. Automobile accessories are also a common focus of many major car defect recalls.
What are the Laws Around Automobile Accessories?
Each state in the U.S has their own regulations and laws regarding automobile accessories and the penalties and fines vary from state to state. Check your states rules and regulations on the specific automobile accessory that you wish to install on your car.
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What are Some Examples of Dangerous Automobile Accessories?
Some automobile accessories are actually legal, but are considered dangerous due to the risks that an ordinary consumer might not be aware of. Other accessories are flatly illegal and should be avoided (not just to avoid a ticket, but to avoid serious injuries to one’s self and/or other driver).
Or, some automobile accessories only become dangerous when they’re used in the wrong way, such as the improper use of high beams or fog lights. Some examples of automobile accessories that might be dangerous include:
- Video/DVD Players: Newer cars can come equipped with video or DVD players, and some people also use portable players in their car. These can be distracting to drivers and others on the road. These must be used in conformance with state road rules.
- Certain Types of Headlights/Fog Lights: For example, high-powered headlights and other types of headlights can be blinding for oncoming traffic. Similarly, fog lights and high beams need to be used according to specific road laws.
- Neon Lights/Wheel Lights: Neon lights are sometimes attached to the underside of a bumper or side railings, or along the outside of a wheel. These are usually considered illegal in most states.
- Brush Guards/Push Guards: These are metal additions to a front or rear bumper, usually on a truck or SUV. They can cause severe damage to other vehicles in a car crash, and can increase the risk of injury to both the driver of the car and the other driver in a crash.
- License Plate Covers: Tinted or smoke-colored plastic covers on a license plate can sometimes make the license plate unreadable. Even clear, non-tinted plastic covers are illegal in most jurisdictions.
- Hanging Crystals: Hanging crystals, metals, or other objects from a rear-view mirror can cause blinding glares.
- Window Tint: Window tint is illegal in some states, although some states allow tinting up to a certain grade of darkness.
- Light “Black-out” Mods: These are tinting or smoke-coloring that is applied to the head/brake lights or turn signals on the car. These can make the signals ineffective, thus increasing the risk of an accident.
As mentioned, you should double-check with your local laws before adding any accessories to your automobile. If you’re unsure about the status of a particular accessory, you should hold off on installing it on or in your car.
What are the Legal Consequences of Dangerous Automobile Accessories?
The legal consequences of installing a dangerous automobile accessory can vary depending on the situation:
- Tickets: In many cases, the police may simply issue the owner a “fix-it-ticket” with instructions to remove the accessory from the car. These can sometimes involve a monetary fine that must be paid to the court.
- Civil Liability: When an unlawful modification or an unlawful automobile accessories contribute to an auto accident, the driver of the vehicle may face civil liability for injuries caused to other persons or to property as a result of the accident. This is especially true if the accessory directly caused the accident or injury. Liability increases even more where the owner of the vehicle is aware of the risks or illegal status of an accessory, yet continues to use it.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Regarding Dangerous Automobile Accessories?
The laws covering dangerous automobile accessories are different in every state. You may wish to contact a defective products lawyer for advice on how to deal with automobile accessories in your area. Also, if you’ve been injured due to a dangerous automobile accessory, your personal injury attorney can help you file a lawsuit and will represent you in court during proceedings.