Question: Thank you for your column, I enjoy it. ... Anyway, I thought it was a law that you had to have your headlights on if you had your windshield wipers on, like when it's raining or whatever. So is that true? I sure meet a lot of people using wipers in the rain, but they don't have their headlights on.
Answer: Thanks for reading the column and for sending in a question. I have answered this before, but it's been quite awhile and there are a couple issues that I need to clarify, so thanks for asking. First of all, a direct answer to your main question is that our law requires vehicle lights to be on at any time from sunset to sunrise, at any time when it is raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing and at any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke, fog or other conditions or there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead.
To clarify on a couple points, let me say that the part about "when the windshield wipers are on," is not in the law, but is only a general guideline that is often taught to show when to have the lights on. Also, at all times when the headlights are required to be on, then all other lights are also required to be on as well (i.e. tail lights, marker lamps, etc.). Even if you have a vehicle that has headlights that come on automatically, then over-ride the switch and turn the lights switch on anyway, because while some do, not all makes of vehicles have the other required lights come on automatically when the headlights do.
The last thing I want to say, is that you are a lot safer having the headlights on than not, so we recommend having them on all the time. As a police officer, I drive with mine on all the time, even in my personal vehicle. Many crashes could be prevented if we all did. You need headlights to be seen, not just to see. So put your lights on, and be seen and safe!
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. Or e-mail questions to me at Curtis.Mowers@state.mn.us. Questions are edited for content and length.
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