When Can You Drive Using Only Your Parking Lights? All You Want To Know - Totally Light (2023)

To start with, when can you drive using only your parking lights?

You drive using only your parking lights when: if it’s a drunken mistake, the state law allows it, other lights are bad, broad daylight, in case of an emergency, few minutes after sunset and before sunrise.

Most of the time, park lights don’t interfere with your ability to drive. Most states and nations require that park lights be left on at all times. However, it’s common for police to ignore it. This is why daytime running lights are a common feature of modern vehicles.

For more information, keep reading.

Table of Contents

When Can You Drive Using Only Your Parking Lights?

For those preparing for their DMV written text, the answer to when can you drive using only your parking lights is not under any circumstances.

Here are some instances where you can drive using only your parking lights

If It’s A Drunken Mistake

Some individuals lose their faculties when intoxicated, which is why they shouldn’t operate a vehicle.

A driver who is intoxicated will continue to operate the vehicle with the parking light on instead of the headlight because they won’t be able to tell whether the headlight is on or not.

In some states, driving while intoxicated and doing so with a parking light on is a double offense. Driving after drinking is not advised.

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The State Law Allows It

Driving with only your parking lights on may not be prohibited in some states, but there may be some restrictions. Only a few states permit driving while only using your parking light because of the danger.

Other Lights Are Bad

If the other lights are ineffective, it is also possible to drive using only the parking lights. The parking light can come in handy to help illuminate the area or road ahead while ensuring the vehicle’s visibility if the other lights on the car are not on or in good condition.

Broad Daylight

If you so choose, you may drive in broad daylight using only the parking light, unless the state forbids it. In broad daylight, oncoming cars and bystanders can see your car clearly, so there is no danger.

In Case Of An Emergency

You can also drive only using the parking light if there is an emergency and the other lights are broken or malfunctioning.

As long as there is a clear emergency situation, you can be confident that you won’t get into trouble with the law.

Few Minutes After Sunset And Before Sunrise

In some states, you are also permitted to drive with only the parking lights for about 25 to 30 minutes both before and after sunset. Because there will still be some natural light present before sunrise, a few minutes after sunset.

Remember that it is forbidden to drive in some states with only your parking lights on; in these states, you must also have your headlights on. See more about Can You Use LED Strip Lights Outdoor?

A Parking Light’s Definition

A parking light, also referred to as a “side light” or “position light,” is used to make your car visible when parked, especially at night.

Even though it can also be found at the back or side of a vehicle, it is typically found close to the outer or inner edge of the headlight in front of the vehicle.

Depending on the type and model, the parking light’s placement may differ from vehicle to vehicle. However, it is still in front of the vehicle in some vehicles where it can be found in some other light units. Uncertain of where your parking light is located? Look in the owner’s manual.

You can also search for the parking light symbol on the dashboard by looking for “two half circles facing away from one another also with slanted lines (three) coming from each side.”

The parking light on a car is usually amber or white in color, and its sole function is to emit enough light to make the car visible to other drivers when it is parked.

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When Can You Drive Using Only Your Parking Lights? All You Want To Know - Totally Light (1)

Parking And Running Lights: Are They The Same?

Although parking lights and running lights differ in a number of ways, they do have one thing in common: both are placed in front of the vehicle to increase visibility.

We should take into account their various meanings in order to further explain the differences between parking lights and running lights.

When a car is parked at night, it must be visible, so a parking light has been established as the light that is placed in front of the car.

In spite of the fact that it can guarantee a vehicle’s visibility at night, it is not bright enough for driving at night because they are not intended for this use.

On the other hand, the running light, also called a “Daytime Running Light,” is situated on the front end of the car and automatically turns on when the engine is turned on.

As long as the car is running after this has occurred, the light doesn’t go out. Running lights are not as bright as high beams or headlights.

When the headlights or fog lights are on, or when the vehicle has an on/off feature, it is possible to turn off the running light.

Running lights are thought to be a much better option for visibility than parking lights, and you can drive with them on in broad daylight without worrying about being stopped.

Running lights are thought to be brighter and better for visibility at night, but they might not be much use when it’s snowing heavily and it’s foggy outside.

Why Do You Only Have Your Parking Lights On While You Are Driving?

My personal take on people driving at night with only parking lights on is thus: “I’m so stoned/drunk that I can’t tell if my headlights are on, look at me!”

I have a good feeling that police officers will agree with me.

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All of us have, at some point, driven a few hundred yards or meters with our lights off, or, if there are bright street lights on, only with our parking lights on.

Most of us arrive at that “Ohhh Sh.t!” Moment on the first section of dark road and frantically switch the headlights back on.

The foolish and inebriated continue.. far far beyond that.

Driving While Using Parking Lights Is It Illegal In Texas?

Driving in Texas while the parking lights are on is not prohibited. Every light on a car, including the parking light, must meet a minimum standard to be considered compliant.

In Texas, using the parking light is acceptable as long as it is not when other lights, like the headlight, ought to be on.

Unless absolutely necessary and required, you shouldn’t switch out a headlight for a parking light. When you ought to be using the headlight, switch to the parking light.

Why Do Parking Lights Still Exist On Vehicles?

Even before the 1940s, when they were first mounted on vehicles, they served the same function as they do today. There weren’t as many street lights back then, and the roads weren’t as wide as they are now. The driver would therefore turn on the separate circuit of lights when the car was parked on the side of the road so that other drivers could see it. These lights didn’t use much energy because they were small and on their own circuit, so the battery could actually last all night. Another feature allowed the driver to decide whether they wanted to turn on all four lights or just the side of the car that was closest to the road, usually.

Things changed over time, and to simplify manufacturing, the lights were added to the headlight circuit. Reflective lenses that were added to the vehicles’ front, rear, and sides was another improvement. this all but eliminated the need to leave the lights on all night since an on coming vehicles’ headlights would illuminate the reflectors.

On some vintage vehicles from the 1960s and 1970s, there are smaller lights inside the headlamp that are very dim but give the impression that the headlights are on. In the corners of the headlight module and taillight of newer, more contemporary vehicles are tiny LED lights. These are still incorporated into the main headlight circuit, but because they are LEDs, they use incredibly little energy, do not illuminate the dash, and can be left on even when the engine is off.

The American vehicles lacked the ability to illuminate just one side of the vehicle for some reason, probably due to outdated technology or ease of manufacturing. Since it is required by law to have your parking lights illuminated when parked on the side of a street or road with a speed limit of 30 mph or higher, European vehicles still have that built into their headlight switch.

In modern vehicles, the “Parking Lights” are still in use on vehicles, but again it has been incorporated into the head light circuit. It is the first position on the head light switch after the “Off” and before the “On” position. They are now used when driving at dawn or dusk, approaching a guarded gate, driving through some tunnels, and, of course, when leaving your car parked by the side of the road, particularly if it is on the other side of the road. When the amber lights are on, you are not blinding oncoming traffic, but since your headlights are typically pointed slightly to the right when you are parked on the other side of the road, you are definitely blinding or at least annoying drivers who pass you when your headlights are on..

The truth is that a battery can last for several hours if a car is parked with the engine off and the parking lights on. Headlights should not be on while parking on the side of the road; instead, parking lights should be on.

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Yes, daytime running lights are a thing now. Unbelievable as it may seem, those can be disabled. Depending on the make, model, and year of the car you’re driving, there are a number of different options. Again, these should be turned off when parking by the side of the road, approaching a guarded gate, driving through specific designated tunnels, etc.

When parked by the side of the road, why should you have your headlights off and parking lights on whether or not your engine is running? Because it alerts passing motorists to the fact that your car is stationary and not moving, they won’t crash into it or anyone getting in or out of it. No, if your car is parked, off, and you aren’t driving it, I’m not advocating leaving them on all night. I’m saying that the headlights should be off and the parking lights turned on if you are pulling over to the side, perhaps to run quickly inside a friend’s house or let people get in or out of the car.

Another safety concern is this. A car coming from the front will be blinded by your headlights when they are on. This makes it more difficult for the driver in front of the vehicle to see whether someone is crossing the street to get in or out, whether the door on the roadside is open, etc.

Why Are There Daytime Running Lights?

The purpose is to prevent collisions between vehicles. According to studies conducted in Scandinavia and Sweden, daytime running lights on a car reduce the risk of a fatal head-on collision by 10%. Due to the high number of head-on collisions that occurred on company roads, the Canadian oil company I worked for installed daytime running lights on all of their vehicles long before the government made it mandatory. Long before governments made it mandatory, they also installed seatbelts and prohibited smoking on company grounds.

Of course, the US disregarded these studies because it believes no one has the right to impede their constitutional right to perish from stupidity. It is a Darwinian society, despite the fact that many of its members reject Darwin’s theories.

Do You Need To Use Your Parking Lights When You’re Driving At Night?

Parking lights are used to light up a non-moving hazard, such as a parked car.

They cannot be used on moving, driving automobiles.

Turn on your headlights if it is dark enough to make your car more noticeable rather than using your parking lights to trick people into thinking you are parked.

Turn on your parking lights if you want to make your car more visible while it is parked, especially as dusk and night fall.


Parking lights alone should never be used while driving. The majority of the responses and comments I’ve read provide compelling justifications for not using parking lights while driving. This real-life incident, which claimed the lives of several people, is described below. I started passing a slower moving car as I was traveling down a two-lane country road at dusk. We were approaching a location where there were several businesses with exterior lighting. As I began to pass, I found myself suddenly facing an approaching car that had only its parking lights on and blended into the lights behind him. I was fortunate that the road had a slight incline and that it was deep enough to conceal his parking lights. I knew he was approaching me when I saw his lights vanish, and I had just enough time to hard brake and veer back into my lane. I’ve never understood why the person who was approaching never flashed his lights to let me know he was approaching.

Regarding your reading, I thank you.


When can you drive using only your parking lights in Florida? ›

4 - Parking Lights. Parking lights must be used at night on any vehicle parked on a roadway or shoulder outside of cities and towns. Driving with parking lights only (in place of headlights) is against the law.

When should I use my parking lights? ›

Today, parking lights simply assist in illuminating the front or rear of the vehicle. In the past, however, they served a more critical function. Drivers could turn on their parking lights when they were parking on dark, narrow roads in order to enhance safety.

Can you drive with parking lights only in place of headlights? ›

It is against the law. Parking lights can be extremely useful when used as backup lights during an emergency. The parking light will illuminate on that side of the car if one of the headlights fails. This will help other drivers be aware of the presence of a vehicle and give it the space it needs on the road.

When driving at night you should only use your parking lights? ›

Explanation It is unlawful to drive at night using only your parking lights. You must use your headlights when driving in lowered visibility.

Can you drive daytime with parking lights? ›

Section 24800 of the California Vehicle Code states: “No vehicle shall be driven at any time with the parking lamps lighted except when the lamps are being used as turn-signal lamps or when the headlights also are lighted.”

Are you allowed to drive only with side lights parking lights in darkness? ›

In many US states, it's illegal to drive your car with only the sidelights, or referred to as parking lights, illuminated. The thinking behind this is that if it's dark enough to require lights, drivers should simply use their headlights.

What's the difference between parking lights and headlights? ›

Parking lights, which are sometimes also known as sidelights, are lights that appear outside the headlights located at the front of a car. Cars often have a second set of parking lights at the rear. Initially, those lights were used to make cars more visible whenever they were parked on the side of a poorly lit road.

How do you activate parking lights when do you use them? ›

Parking lights are located at the front and back of your vehicles; they are white or amber in the front and red on the back. All of them must be visible for 500 ft. It is never legal to drive with your parking lights on; they are only to be used during parking.

What is the difference between parking lights and running lights? ›

Daytime Running Lights. As we mentioned before, DRLs are a better option for low visibility situations than parking lights. They give off more light than parking lights, and you won't be pulled over for using them during the day.

What does driving with parking lights mean? ›

These lights make the car visible from the side so that other vehicles can easily spot the vehicle. These lights can also be used during bad weather – such as rain or fog. Since visibility is a major issue during such conditions, these lights can improve visibility.

Can I drive with one of my headlights out? ›

If you're driving around in a vehicle that has only one working headlight, chances are an officer will stop you. This applies even if you are driving your car with two working parking lights illuminating the road. You can receive a citation for violating the law.

When driving at night do you only use high beam lights? ›

If you are driving with your high-beam lights on, you must dim them at least 500 ft from any oncoming vehicle, so you don't blind the oncoming driver. You must use low-beam lights if you are within 200-300 ft of the vehicle you are following.

Is it illegal to drive with just your parking lights illuminated at dusk and dawn in Ohio? ›

No motor vehicle, during any time specified in this section, shall be operated upon a street or highway within this state using only parking lights as illumination.

What are the parking laws in Florida? ›

When parking on a public road, move as far away from traffic as possible. If there is a roadside shoulder, pull as far onto it as you can. If there is a curb, pull close to it — you must not park more than one foot away. Always park on the right side of the roadway, unless it is a one-way street.

What lights are illegal on cars in Florida? ›

(1) A person may not drive or move or cause to be moved any vehicle or equipment upon any highway within this state with any lamp or device thereon showing or displaying a red, red and white, or blue light visible from directly in front thereof except for certain vehicles provided in this section.


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