By Michael Phelan
Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Updated: November 28, 2021 at 12:47 pm
I was heading home from work as night began to fall. The drive was typically uneventful until I saw a bright blob of white in the distance. Was I seeing a ghost? It was hard to tell.
As I drove on, the shape became more refined and, to my disappointment, it wasn’t an unearthly apparition at all – but an oncoming motorist driving with their interior light on.
Dome light, roof light, courtesy light – whatever you call it, I didn’t think you could cruise around in your own rolling light show.
A quick poll of your buddies and some will undoubtedly insist you can drive with your interior light on. Others will argue you could cop a hefty fine if pulled over by the police.
So, who’s right, and who’s wrong? Well, let’s just say there’s definitely a safer option to choose.
First up, it’s important to state that, we’re talking about your car’s main cabin light here – not the lights illuminating the dash, doors, speakers, cupholders and other features. And we’re not talking about spot lamps, map reading lamps or make-up lamps, either.
Technically, you can legally drive with the interior cabin light on, but the greater question is, should you?
RAA Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain advises against leaving the light on while driving at night.
“When lit, the interior cabin light can distract the driver as it reduces your ability to see out of the vehicle and the road ahead,” Mr Mountain says.
“In conditions of reduced visibility, such as heavy rain, having that cabin light on can make it harder to see well enough to safely navigate the road safely.
It all comes back to the basics. Anything that makes it more difficult to detect pedestrians or other road users can have potentially disastrous consequences.
If you have your interior light on, it can also indicate you’re looking for something inside the car. That’s fine when your vehicle is safely parked, but if you’re driving, your focus needs to be on the road. The last thing you want is a little light above your head attracting unwanted attention from the authorities.
In short, while it’s not illegal to drive with your interior light on, South Australian law states that a driver must have proper control of a vehicle. To that end, it’s crucial not to let anything distract you while you’re behind the wheel, including lights inside the vehicle.
Don't get distracted.
Driving without full control of the car could cost you this much.
If it’s deemed the interior light impairs your driving ability in any way, you could be fined $201, plus a $92 Victims of Crime Levy.
So don’t let a little light land you in hot water. Avoid a fine and ensure the safety of all road users, by leaving the interior light off at night when you’re driving