If you’ve ever been driving down the road, blinded by the off-kilter headlights of a truck with a lift kit, a new bill advancing at the General Assembly is for you.
And if you drive a vehicle with after-market modifications like a squatted lift, you might soon face a fine or even the threat of losing your license.
One popular lift is so closely associated with its fans in North and South Carolina that it’s called the “Carolina Squat” even in other states around the country. It’s the term for when the car isn’t lifted evenly, but has the front end angled up. That can be done by lifting the front, lowering the back or both.
And it’s becoming increasingly popular.
According to Google Trends, online searches for “Carolina Squat” or “squatted truck” have taken off in the last few years. Numerous social media groups dedicated to the style have thousands of members.
The rise has brought both fans and critics.
The laid-back style is popular at car and truck shows, but not with state lawmakers concerned about the driver not being able to see drivers or pedestrians on the road in front of them.
“Many of you have probably seen these cars that have been elevated so high in the air, a car that would come with 16-inch tires, they now have 37-inch tires,” said Rep. Brenden Jones, a Columbus County Republican who sponsored the bill, during a committee hearing Wednesday.
Extreme lifts cause all sorts of safety concerns, he said, from dangerously angled headlights to drivers not being able to see the road, or the cars even falling apart as they drive.
“I’ve seen several instances where the wheels have literally run off these vehicles,” said Jones, who owns a used car dealership in Tabor City.
Bill now heads to NC Senate
The House of Representatives passed HB 692 nearly unanimously Thursday, by a vote of 107-5, with little debate. It now heads to the Senate. The day before the vote, when the bill was in committee, Jones sought to assuage fellow Republicans concerned about what some of their friends and constituents might think.
Rep. David Willis, a Republican from Union County outside of Charlotte, said he belongs to a Jeep enthusiast group and asked to exempt Jeeps from the rules.
“It’s very common for a lot of these to have four-inch lifts, 37-inch wheels on there,” Willis said, warning lawmakers to be cautious of angering people passionate about modifying their vehicles.
“You’ll have an awful lot of Jeeps parked out on Jones Street (in front of the legislative building) one day and, you know, making a statement of their own,” he said.
Jones said he wouldn’t agree to exempt specific types of vehicles — but that as long as people have had their lifts done properly and evenly, he said, they shouldn’t get pulled over even if this change does become law.
People who do get pulled over could get a warning or a ticket, Jones said. Someone with three offenses within 12 months would lose their driver’s license for at least a year.
Rep. Mark Pless, a Republican from Haywood County in western North Carolina, mentioned how expensive lift kits can be and said he was concerned for people who have already paid for the work. Jones said it’s already illegal to do certain types of lifts, and this bill would just tweak those rules to focus more on angled lifts in particular.
However, it does appear that at least some Carolina Squat style lifts are legal under current law. State law as-is bans high riders and low riders, but not squatted lifts — as long as they aren’t too extreme.
The law currently says passenger vehicles “shall not be elevated or lowered, either in front or back, more than six inches.”
The language in this new bill, if it becomes law, would say passenger vehicles cannot be lifted more than three inches in the front and also lowered more than two inches in the back.
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