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Ask a Cop: What light is the right light?

TREAT(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

“My Mercedes has a front LED emblem that lights up at night when the headlights are on. Is that OK?”

ORS Chapter 816 sets forth the standards for prohibited lighting. From the front of your vehicle, with the exception of turn signals and fog lights, only white light should be visible.

Red light — again with turn signals, backup lights and ambient license plate lights being excepted — is the only allowable light visible from the rear. All of the Christmas lights hung in vehicle windows and wrapped on roof racks and lit wreaths, etc., are all prohibited under the Oregon Vehicle Code. So are neon lights.

These various types of lights are prohibited because light colors can mean many different things and may cause confusion. For example, only emergency vehicles can have red or blue lights visible from anywhere on the vehicle (ORS 816.350). That red blinking Rudolph nose on the front of your neighbor’s SUV can look like an approaching emergency vehicle and can quickly become a hazard as the vehicle ahead tries to yield for what it thinks is an emergency vehicle. Another example: Green lights are used to indicate an incident command vehicle during an emergency; those vehicles are the only vehicles allowed to display green light.

As you can see, the non-factory lighting you add to your vehicle (whether inside or out) can have consequences, including a $160 fine. Since your front emblem is white and from the factory, it is fine.

— Lt. Doug Treat