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Why Are Some Headlights Blue?

You’re out for a late-night drive with the windows rolled down and your favorite song blasting. As you venture around a curve, you’re met by what you can only describe as the lights from an alien spaceship.

After a moment of the most intense blue light in your line of vision, an oncoming car passes, and your night vision returns. What just happened?

Encountering blue headlights on a dark road could make you think, “Those blue headlights were so bright that I almost lost control of the car!” and “I have to get some of those!” So what are blue headlights for, and should you acquire them?

Read on to find out!

What Are Blue Headlights for? 

Some drivers adapt blue headlights for their vehicles because they give a more forward-facing light than halogen bulbs. They appear brighter, illuminating the road more thoroughly, and are supposedly more helpful in inclement weather.

However, there are some questions regarding whether these lights help or hinder drivers on the road.

What Are the Blue Colored Headlights Called?

Blue headlights are xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs that put off a blue tint. This light also appears on computer screens and cell phones, making visibility for the user much brighter. Halogen lights, which emit a white-tinted light, are a collection of all the color wavelengths in the rainbow.

Xenon lights are blue because they have more blue wavelengths than the other colors. These wavelengths are shorter than different colors and tend to bounce in our eyes, which can cause problems for other drivers viewing xenon headlights.

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Close up of blue sports car headlights
Headlights come in all types of tint colors, but not all are legal to use.

What Cars Have Blue Headlights?

Some manufacturers have begun installing xenon headlights in luxury vehicles from the factory. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes are three manufacturers that regularly include light-tinted blue headlighting. When xenons are factory-fitted, as with these car models, they are road-legal.

However, do-it-yourself xenon HID light installation kits are not legal. The legality comes down to the difference in replacement bulbs. Manufacturer-installed bulbs are xenon, yet some replacement bulbs in a kit are halogen bulbs with blue tinting.

These replacements can wreak havoc with oncoming motorists’ eyes and are illegal. 

Are Blue Headlights Better? 

Blue headlights are almost always better for the car’s driver, with one exception. Xenon headlights do a poor job when driving in fog. Because of the shorter blue wavelength, the light beams bounce off water droplets in fog in various directions rather than shining straight through the mist.

The other detriment to using blue headlights is the negative effect on drivers looking into them. Because the headlights are brighter than halogen bulbs, it is more challenging for oncoming drivers to see. The short blue-tinted wavelengths also penetrate the drivers’ retinas, scattering more glare than other colors.

Blurred headlights driving at night
Blue headlights can make it challenging for oncoming traffic to see due to their brightness.

Are Color Headlights Illegal in New York?

Anything other than white headlights is illegal in the state of New York. This is also true in California, Texas, and Nevada, where they have banned xenon HID headlights because they emit a blue tint. State statutes are a bit confusing, however.

They require HID headlights to be factory-installed to be legal, but because these ‘factory-installed’ lights are blue-tinted, they would violate the statute.

To clarify this, the law enforcement officer who pulls you over would have to know the difference between an after-market halogen bulb that is blue and the factory-installed xenon HID bulb which ‘appears’ blue to the human eye.

Most seem to recognize the difference, so it is fair to say that most states will allow the factory-installed blue headlights but will not allow DIY kits or after-market bulbs.

Is It Illegal to Have Two Colored Headlights? 

It is illegal to use different colored headlights on a vehicle. The only true colors you can have are white on the front of any auto or truck and amber for turn signals. So you can not install colored bulbs, blackout tints, and LED halo lights on headlights. The mixing of colors on headlights is illegal.

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Is It Worth Getting Blue Headlights? 

Blue headlights are an excellent safety addition to your vehicle, giving you brighter lighting when you need it on the road. However, they can be a hazard to oncoming drivers, making it extremely difficult to see the road.

Please use them carefully, and engage in road courtesies like turning down your brights when a vehicle is coming toward you. Then you can enjoy more visibility and a safer driving experience, as can your fellow motorist.

Have you ever encountered a car with blue headlights at night? Tell us in the comments!

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