Red Interior Lights: Why do Police, and Truck Drivers have them?

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You probably have seen it before, you glance into a police car, long haul truck, or even a work pickup truck and you see that they have red interior lights instead of the white style that you have in your car. Is this just for show, or is there a real reason why you would have this different color in your cab?

So why do pickup drivers, truck drivers and police cars have red lights on the interior? This really comes down to giving the best night vision as possible. Red lights don’t glare nearly as much as white lights, and they also don’t require your eyes to dilate as much, meaning you can keep your night vision while still being able to have some light.

Let’s dig into these different reasons, and explain why it benefits in that way!

1. To Maintain your night vision

This is by far the main reason why you will see different vehicles with red lights! This color of light is not nearly as harsh to our eyes as a standard light bulb is.

Your eyes don’t dilate nearly as much, meaning if you need to quickly switch from looking at paperwork, to needing to drive at a moments notice you don’t have to wait for your eyes to adjust, saving you plenty of time.

This is extremely helpful for Police Officers, as they are generally in their cars for long periods of time working on paperwork, however they get called onto the road, they need to do it quickly! Red lights allow police officers to immediately turn off the red lighting and drive safely. Meanwhile standard lights would keep them stationary for up to thirty seconds before being able to drive away.

Long haul truck drivers also benefit from this in a similar way as well. They are able to pull over quickly, turn on their red lighting, do what they need, and then begin driving again without any delay. Alternatively, if they need to turn on their lighting while driving, it also will not affect their visibility for that short time that the lights are on.

Now, pickup truck drivers using red LED lights like these are able to utilize these red lights for work situations, and in off-roading adventures! White lights are blinding, which isn’t very helpful on a job sight, and especially not helpful when you are trying to navigate rocky terrain. Being able to switch from looking at a map with the red lights, to making their way around a boulder can mean the difference between a damaged truck, and not.

2. Red lights don’t glare as much as normal lights

Not only do red lights help with your night vision, but they also don’t glare nearly as much as white lights do. Because of this, these lights can be utilized by a passenger in the vehicle while the driver drives (you shouldn’t do this unless its an emergency, and even then off-road use only).

Glare on windshields, dashes, side windows and mirrors can hide things (creating a blind spot). Red lights keep that glare from happening, resulting in a much safer environment for the driver!

This is of course helpful for police officers with passengers, truck drivers that drive with a secondary driver, and of course families that go off-roading together.

3. Red lighting looks cool

The final reason why some pickups (or cars) especially have red interior lighting is just because it looks cool. Modifying your vehicle to be different from stock is a lot of fun, and that includes interior lighting. Many people easily switch out their interior bulbs with red ones like these because they are cheap, easy to install, and make a big difference in the feel of your vehicle.

Of course, its up to the eyes of the beholder on if this is cool or not, but is a big reason you will find red lighting on the interiors of vehicles! Generally speaking though, most people that do this have no idea why red lights are actually used though (unless they read this article of course).

Can you install red interior lighting into your vehicle?

If you fall into one of the people that needs one of the three categories above, then you likely are wanting to add red interior lighting to your vehicle! Thankfully this is actually an easy process for really any vehicle.

Firstly, you can just switch out the ceiling lighting by getting yourself some new LED bulbs and install them just like any other light! This is going to be the quickest, and honestly most useful way of upgrading your interior lighting game.

However if you are someone that wants to go a little more overboard, you can also buy some really cool LED strips like these that can be used to give you some red ambient lighting in the foot well of the vehicle. This not only looks great, but also gives you some indirect (less blinding) light in the cabin as well. These are generally installed with double sided tape, and are easy to install, and remove whenever you would like.

Please note: Check with local laws on interior lighting before proceeding with these installs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is red lighting expensive to install?

Adding red lighting to your vehicle is not an expensive thing to do. If you are able to do it yourself, you could have red lighting in your car for as little as fifteen dollars. However you can always go all out and spend hundreds to have your car professionally done at a shop. It really is up to you.

Do I have to have red lighting to go off-roading?

No one HAS to have red lighting to go off-roading. If you are willing to turn on your interior lighting to read your map, or eat, and then wait 30 seconds to let your eyes adjust at night, then you can do without the addition of red lighting in your pickup.


Well there you have it! Now when you see red lighting on the interiors of vehicles, you know exactly why it is there. Red lighting is mainly installed into vehicles to give considerably better night vision than white lighting is able to offer.

This is a big help to truck drivers, police officers and even off-roaders in staying safe, and being able to do what they do without having to worry about safety (at least in this aspect).

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