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Because it's so eye-catching, mobile neon has even captured the imaginations of a few motorists who wouldn't ordinarily get within a dozen car lengths of a monster-truck rally.
Like, for instance, Naoma F., a Valley legal secretary who is not only female (something of a rarity among car culturists) but who also happens to be old enough to be the mother of many of her fellow enthusiasts. A neon collector whose north Phoenix home is decorated with tubular art, the middle-aged Naoma (who prefers that her last name not be used) saw the light after a neon-equipped vehicle cruised past her several months ago. "I saw that and just had to have some for myself," reports Naoma, who now tools around town in a Geo Metro equipped with hot-pink landing lights and a matching license-plate frame. "I love neon--it's a lot of fun. And everyone else seems to enjoy seeing it on the street, too."
Well, maybe not everyone. Judging from traffic citations that have reportedly been issued to a number of car-neon owners, some police officers seem intent on pulling the plug on the traveling light shows. As a result, one of the biggest topics of conversation among the lightheaded set is neon's hazy legality.
Although it's now common wisdom in neon circles that certain color and light configurations are sure to earn you a ticket (according to the law, only emergency vehicles can display a red light visible from the front), there is considerable debate among enthusiasts over the letter of the law. Is red-orange really the same as red? And can the glow from a hidden red tube legally be conceived as light?
"Cops love to hassle minitruckers, and neon is just another reason to pull us over," grouses a 19-year-old cruiser who recently received a police warning about the danger of his "distracting" neon. "Whether or not they actually write a ticket just depends on how big a dick the cop is," he continues. "Just show me where it says it's illegal to put neon on a car."
For the time being, no one can--which is probably why so many neonsters are able to brag about beating tickets. Although Phoenix Police Department did not return telephone calls regarding these traffic citations, a spokesperson for the city's traffic court acknowledges that neon-oriented offenses are beginning to infiltrate his court's docket. Most of those citations, he reports, involve alleged infractions of Arizona Revised Statute 28-921, a near-incomprehensible catchall statute having some tenuous connection to vehicle lamps.
"Unless the Phoenix Police Department has some coherent policy, this just might be each officer attempting to deal with the situation as they see fit," says Jim Scorza, court administrator. "But as far as I can determine, there are no statutes referring specifically to neon lights. I suspect that a lot of this is going to be decided on a case-by-case basis."
Lightening up, Scorza chuckles. "When they wrote these statutes, I don't think anyone was anticipating neon lights on cars.