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Tinted or smoked headlights are prohibited in Minnesota along with other vehicle alterations

Ask A Trooper
Lead Summary
Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota Highway Patrol

Question: I was wondering what the state guidelines are regarding smoked or tinted headlights. Are they legal?
Answer: Minnesota law does not allow for this. It is illegal to equip or operate a motor vehicle with any equipment or material that covers a headlamp, tail lamp, or reflector.
I’d also like to remind drivers about when headlights and taillights need to be on. Minnesota law says that every vehicle on a roadway shall display lighted headlamps, lighted tail lamps, and illuminating devices from sunset to sunrise. The law also applies when it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing and at any time when visibility is impaired by weather or insufficient light at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
Many vehicles are equipped with basic automatic headlights. The headlights turn on when sensors on the dashboard detect a certain level of darkness or the level of ambient light. However, there are limitations to automatic headlights. Drivers might assume the sensors will activate all of the vehicle’s lights in reduced visibilities, but that is not always the case. Instead, drivers should use the conventional headlight switch to manually turn on their lights. 
A good rule to follow — if your wipers need to be on, your headlights, taillights and marker lights should be on as well. Also, make it a habit to check your lights often to ensure all of them are properly working.
Question: I have noticed cars that have a high-mounted center brake light that flashes about four times before becoming steadily lit (like other brake lights). I’m seeing car dealers are installing them on some cars. Are these flashing lights legal?
Answer: These types of devices and alterations to the brake lights are not legal according to state and federal law. An auto dealer would also be in violation if they installed that type of light on a motor vehicle.
Not only are flashing red lights illegal but so are modifications to the rear taillights and brake lights. I’ve come across several taillights and brake lights that have been covered or tinted. Altering or obscuring any portion of the lamp affects the intensity of light emitted. This could be an issue in a motor vehicle crash both criminally and civilly.
You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at,

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