Vehicle lighting

Requirements in road traffic

Traffic places high demands on its participants. People have to react quickly. The mechanics must function for a long time. The electronics must not fail. People should be disturbed as little as possible. The environment should be burdened as little as possible. And the price of the vehicles should be so low that everyone can afford mobility.

Several of these demands are in conflict with each other. Therefore, compromises must be found that ensure the smoothest possible flow of traffic and do not burden and restrict the participants more than necessary. Today's laws and regulations ensure road safety. In cooperation with the registration offices, the technical inspection associations and other institutions, it is ensured that safety is maintained throughout the operating life of a vehicle.

To this end, vehicles that participate in public road traffic must meet certain requirements.

ECE regulations

Vehicles that are registered in Europe must comply with European laws. These are based on the ECE regulations. These regulations define the technical characteristics of important vehicle components. This ensures a uniform minimum standard for all vehicles registered for European road traffic.

Vehicle types

The ECE regulations subdivide vehicles into different vehicle types. This subdivision is laid down in regulation ECE-R 78.

Mounting regulations

Regulation ECE-R 48 specifies which lighting equipment must be fitted to the various vehicle types. Also the exact number, respectively minimum and maximum equipment, as well as the mounting locations are specified.

Current regulations

It should be noted that this document is not a legal text. It merely quotes in part from the relevant regulations and laws. For binding statements, the legal regulations or official translations of these should be consulted. No guarantee is given for the correctness of the information given here.

The current ECE regulations are published on the UN website. There they can be freely viewed by anyone.

Contracting parties to the ECE regulations

A number of countries participate in the further development of the ECE regulations, because new technologies in vehicle technology require continuous adaptation of the regulations. Other states recognize the regulations and test vehicles and vehicle parts on the basis of them. A positive test forms the basis for the approval of the vehicle part or vehicle for road traffic. The vehicle is then approved for all states that are contracting parties.

The country in which the test or approval took place is noted on the tested part. This can be recognized by the test mark of the contract partner, which is affixed to the vehicle part in a circle. The test center for technical lighting equipment on vehicles works together with the Federal Motor Transport Authority in Flensburg. Vehicle parts tested here receive the E1 test mark.

The following overview is not complete, but consists of randomly selected partners. A list of all contracting parties can be found in the general part of the current ECE regulation.

Contracting Parties to the Agreement concerning the Adoption of Uniform Technical Prescriptions for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Attachments.

Mark of conformityContracting Party
E8Czech Republic
E11United Kingdom
E47South Africa
E48New Zealand
Lighting equipment on vehicles

Vehicle lighting serves a variety of purposes. The headlights illuminate the road at night, and serve to orient the driver. The lights, on the other hand, serve other road users for orientation. They inform other road users about the position (for example, with the rear lights) and the change of movement (for example, with the brake lights) of the vehicle.

For motor vehicles, the lighting equipment is specified in the ECE regulations and is valid internationally. For bicycles, national regulations still apply at present. In this case, the test center for technical lighting equipment on vehicles is your test center and a contact if you have any questions. The prescribed technical lighting equipment on bicycles is listed in the StVZO (Road Traffic Licensing Regulations), paragraph 67.

The following table gives an overview of several technical lighting devices on vehicles. The illuminants and further lights (among others for two-wheelers) are described in further ECE regulations.

German designationEnglish designationParagraph in STVZOECE regulationColor

Identifier letter

Light intensity
rear position lamps, rear outline lampsrear position lamps, presence light, tail light[§53(1)]ECE-R 7redR4-12 (17) cd
rear fog lampsrear fog lamps[§53d]ECE-R 38redF150-300 cd
Retroreflecting devicesretroreflecting devices[§53]ECE-R 3red, yellow or whiteIA, IB, IIIA, IVA
license plate lampsrear registration plate lamp, licene plate lamps
ECE-R 4colorlessLmin. 2,5 cd/m²
parking lampsparking lamps[§51c]ECE-R 77white to the front, red to the rearRto the front 2-60 cd, to the rear 2-30 cd
side marker lampsside marker lamps[§51a(6)]ECE-R 91yellowSM1, SM24-25 cd, 0,6-25 cd
Lane departure warning lights

End-outline marker lampsend-outline marker lamps[§51b]ECE-R 7to the front white, to the rear redR
marker lights, front outline lightsfront position lamps[§51]ECE-R 7whiteA4-60 (84) cd
Door safety lights
stop lampsstop lamps, stop light[§53(2)]ECE-R 7redS (1|2|3)
S1: 60-185 (260) cd
S2 (day): 130-520 (728) cd
S2 (night): 30-80 (112) cd
S3: 25-80 (110) cd
Direction indicatordirection indicator, turn signal[§54,No. 3 to §54]ECE-R 61,5 Hz ± 0,5 Hz, yellow1, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5, 6, R (right), L (left), D (can also be used as double lamp)
1: 175-700 (980) cd
1a: 250-800 (1120) cd
1b: 400-860 (1200) cd
2a: 50-350 cd
2b (day): 175-700 (980) cd
2b (night): 40-120 (168) cd
rotating light (flashing light)special warning light[§52(3)]ECE-R 65yellow or blueA or B, additionally 1 or 2
headlamps for high beam and low beamhead lamps, high beam, low beam[§50](ECE-R 1, -->R 8, R 20), -->R 98, R 112, R113whiteC (low beam), R (high beam), PL (plastic cover lens), / (low beam only alone), S (sealed beam), H (halogen), D (xenon)
Front fog lampsfront fog lamps[§52(1)]ECE-R 19white or light yellowB, PL (plastic cover lens)

Reversing lampsreversing lamps, backup light[§52a]ECE-R 23whiteAR
Working headlamp

daytime running lampsdaytime running lamps
ECE-R 87whiteRL400-800 cd
Prescribed colors in road traffic

The CIE color space (the CIE 1931 standard valence system) is used as the color space in road traffic. The colors to be used each originate from a color range that is defined by means of the standard chromaticity coordinates (x, y).

In the case of luminaires equipped with monochrome light-emitting diodes, the color locus is on the spectral chromaticity diagram of the chromaticity diagram. In the case of luminaires equipped with incandescent lamps, on the other hand, the chromaticity coordinate may be distributed throughout the entire color space.

The values given in nanometers in the following tables are only approximate. The standard chromaticity coordinates are decisive.

chromaticity coordinates:y = 0,335

z = 0,008
Spectral range:610...700nm
Color values:0,398 = y = 0,429

x + y = 0.993
Spectral range:588...595nm

White as a luminaire or headlight color means that the chromaticity coordinates of the illuminated object are changed only insignificantly. Furthermore, the color values with the standard color value components can be found in the ECE regulations.


In the case of reflective elements, colorless means that the chromaticity coordinate of the incident light is only insignificantly changed.


Multiple light sources

The maximum values for multiple light sources (for example, an LED array) may reach 1.4 times the value specified here. This does not apply to the direction indicator of category 2a. The maximum values allowed in this way are given in brackets in the Light intensity column. Accuracy

Decimal places are rounded up. Third stop light

The category S3 stop light is also called CHMS light (Center High Mounted Stop Light).


Directives of the European Communities for road vehicles (EEC directives) and regulations of the Economic Commission for Europe for motor vehicles and their trailers (ECE regulations)

-->Vehicle technology EWG/ECE

-->Basic edition including 41st supplementary edition

-->Kirschbaum Verlag GmbH, Bonn -->Road Traffic Law

-->31st edition

-->C. H. Beck, Munich

-->ISBN 3 423 05015 2