You might not use interior lights as a driver, but your passengers probably use them often. Whether they’re reading a book while riding shotgun or giving kids some light to occupy themselves in the back, interior lights are useful!

But many drivers will turn off interior lights before they drive, and many stories have been told about the illegality of driving with your interior lights on. But it is illegal to drive with interior lights on in Australia?

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A car's interior light turned on - it's useful for seeing inside a car but is it illegal to drive with interior lights on in Australia

Wait. What are interior lights again?

What we mean by interior lights are any lights inside the car. They can help your passengers check a map when you’re lost or provide light for reading. It’s true that mobile phones have made interior lights less useful, but they are still a regular feature of the passenger car.

While there are interior lights throughout a car, the focus of this article is the overhead light, or dome light. It’s the main source of interior light and the light that most people say is illegal to drive with.

Is it illegal to drive with interior lights on in Australia?

The short answer is no. It’s legal to drive with interior lights on in Australia. But before you celebrate, note there are some times these lights could make the law more complicated.

While there’s no exact law against having interior lights on while driving, there are laws against distracted driving, driving without a clear view, and driving without proper control. Unfortunately, these three rules are quite vague, and can be interpreted in different ways. One of these ways could include the distraction caused by interior lights.

A passenger is holding her smart phone in front of the driver in a car while another couple is on video chat on the screen - is it illegal to drive with interior lights on when a mobile is not available

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The problem with driving with interior lights on

Even if it’s not illegal to drive with interior lights on, it’s worth being careful about doing it. The problem with driving with interior lights on, especially at night, is making the inside of the car brighter than the outside. This can cause a reflection on the windscreen. This can be an extra distraction (especially if you have something in your teeth). When the inside of the car is dark the glass won’t turn into a mirror, letting you drive distraction free.

The fact most drivers prefer to drive with interior lights off is telling. It does create a distraction, and anything that takes focus from the road is a potential hazard. While it’s not technically illegal to drive with interior lights on, a police officer is within their right to fine you in the right conditions. Australian law gives police the call, so even if you think you weren’t put off, they might disagree.

How to avoid a fine for driving with interior lights on

Even though you could be fined for driving with interior lights on in Australia, it’s very unlikely. It’s the police officer’s call, and they’re normally pretty reasonable. Feel free to drive with your interior lights on when it’s absolutely needed.

But those reflections are annoying. Here are some things you could do to avoid an accident:

  • Color-tinted lights. Instead of the bright, yellow light that usually comes stock, you can attach a dim, red or green light instead. These colours let you see a bit better inside the car, but they don’t mess with your night vision. This way you get the benefits of your interior lights without the risk of distraction.
  • Audio books or podcasts. Reading passengers are a regular source of interior lights use. Instead of using their eyes, they could use their ears with an audio book. For one person or the whole car, an audio book or podcast will delight passengers without using a light. If you’re need a podcast for the whole family, check out our list of the best podcasts for children.
  • Park. If you really need the interior lights on, why not pull over first? This way you’ll skip the risk of a fine or accident. But you’ll still get to use the interior lights for their actual purpose!
  • The torch on your phone. While interior lights illuminate the whole car, a torch is a focused beam. So use a torch instead of the interior light! We all carry torches, thanks to our mobile phones flash. Get your passengers to use it to get some light without distracting you. And yes, only your passengers should do this! ?Hands off that mobile phone – using a mobile flash light while driving definitely is illegal!

Driving with the interior lights | To light or not to drive?

It is legal to drive with interior lights on in Australia. But they make a reflection on the windshield that can cause a serious distraction for a driver. Don’t be afraid to use them, but don’t use them all the time.

A dimly lit man sitting in the backseat of a car looking at his phone with rain outside - an interior light might help him but is it illegal to drive with interior lights on in Australia


This post shouldn’t be regarded as legal advice. Check that this information applies to your circumstances by speaking with your local road authority.