The driver who decorates his car with Christmas lights to spread holiday cheer across Beaufort County may have to pull the plug on his plans.
Brandon Wooden, a 23-year-old train conductor who grew up in Bluffton but now lives in Hardeeville, has decorated his Ford Taurus with approximately 1,000 Christmas lights. He cruises around the county, mostly along U.S. 278 through Bluffton and Hilton Head, “to make people happy and make people smile,” he told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette earlier this month. “It really uplifts a lot of people in the community.”
The problem? Driving a car covered with Christmas lights apparently is against the law.
Wooden was pulled over by a Beaufort police officer on Monday night while turning into a Chevrolet dealership, where he was going to look at a truck.
Wooden, who was formally warned about the lights by a different officer about three weeks ago, drove away with a ticket for having improper lighting on his vehicle. It was his first such ticket in five years of decorating his car for Christmas.
The fine is $232.50.
Hope Able, spokesperson for the Beaufort Police Department, says the ticket was issued for a state traffic violation — specifically in violation of Section 56-5-4590 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
“In that statute, it specifically states which color every light (on a motor vehicle) has to be,” Able said.
According to that statute, clearance lamps, marker lamps and reflectors mounted on the front of the vehicle have to be amber in color. Rear lighting should be red, “except the stop light or other signal device,” and both back-up lamps and the lights around the license plate should be white.
Wooden said he wants to emphasize that there are no hard feelings on his part.
“I understand why he pulled me over,” he said. “I’ve got nothing against them. They are just trying to do their job.”
Comments about Wooden’s ticket on social media have been mixed, with some posters on a community Facebook page wishing the driver well but saying he should have known better and heeded the original warning.
Others offered to contribute money to help pay off Wooden’s fine and encouraged him to continue driving his lighted car.
Will the ticket — and the threat of more tickets — make Wooden turn off his mobile Christmas light display?
“I’ve thought about it. ... I’m not really too sure, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t want to get in trouble again.”