QUESTION: I know someone who put a snowplow on a pickup. The plow blocked the headlights, so they bought those auxiliary headlights, which are mounted on a bracket higher above the plow like many other people have. One day they took the plow off, and were driving with the auxiliary headlights on when they got stopped by a police officer. The officer told them they could not drive the vehicle without the plow on it and have the auxiliary headlights on at the same time. This seems a little goofy. Is it the officer right?
ANSWER: Winter is over, but I will answer this for you anyway. It might sound goofy, but the officer is correct. The headlights would be blinding to most oncoming drivers. Because of this safety issue, Minnesota State Statute 169.56 Subdivision 5 tells us in part that headlights cannot be higher than 42 inches, unless a mounted snowplow blade is blocking them. It goes on to state, "The lights may not be illuminated when a snowplow blade is not mounted on the vehicle." This is, of course, speaking about the higher mounted auxiliary headlights in question.
On a related note about headlights, in clause (b) of the same statute it goes on to state that, "No other vehicle may be operated on a public highway unless the auxiliary lamps permitted in subdivisions 3 and 4 comply with the height requirements or are completely covered with an opaque material."
In other words, all of those other auxiliary headlight type lights mounted on the top of truck cabs, sports utility vehicles, etc., are not legal unless they are covered at all times. They are never legal to be uncovered or used on a street or highway.
Any person caught operating one of these vehicles unlawfully can be cited by a police officer. Remember that as a driver, you are responsible for any vehicle you are operating. That includes the lighting we have discussed here.
If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, send your questions to: "ASK A TROOPER" c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, P.O. Box 644, Brainerd, MN 56401. Questions are edited.
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