Headlights vs. Daytime Running Lights

The following tidbit is based on information the Department of Motor Vehicles sends me weekly: California law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it’s raining or foggy and 30-minutes before sunset. If your vehicle has daytime running lights, you may think that's sufficient. Not so, according to the state agency. "The California Vehicle Code requires that you use your headlights – not just your daytime running lights – in several situations," the agency reported. "Your headlights must be turned on if it is cloudy, raining, snowing or foggy. If the weather requires that your windshield wipers be turned on, your headlights must also be turned on, as well as on frosty mornings when car windows are likely to be foggy, and on narrow country or mountain roads." The reasoning is, if you're having trouble seeing other vehicles on the road, then they may be having issues seeing you, too. Using your headlights can help avoid head-on collisions. Learn more about this and other driving-related subjects online at www.dmv.ca.gov.
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One Response to Headlights vs. Daytime Running Lights

  1. Haggy says:

    If this is correct, you need to point out where the vehicle code says so. It doesn’t define headlights anywhere. It defines headlamps. You would have to say whether DRLs are or aren’t headlamps, and whether or not they are under given circumstances.

    Since DRLs are in the location specified to meet the headlamp requirement, and they allow you to see persons and vehicles 100 feet away (assuming daylight use or mild rain) and they don’t cause glare or shine into people’s eyes as high beams do, then how do they fail to meet the definition of headlamps under those circumstances?

    There’s nothing in the code that specifies a specific light intensity, so in theory a headlamp that had a variable output based on ambient light levels would be legal.

    The specific laws mentioned have to do with headlamp use, and what’s mentioned here isn’t quite accurate. The “rain” part has to do with continuous use of the wipers. If the weather leaves slush on the road and I need to wipe some off that got splashed on my windshield, you’d have a hard time making a case that I needed to use my wipers because of weather conditions and should therefore have been using my headlights.

    The bottom line is that you should use your headlights when needed whether the law requires them or not. There’s no law saying that you must use them in underground parking lots, for example, but you should use them. California is actually late to the game on many of these issues. Although the state’s DMV manual has been telling people for many decades to use headlights when it rains, it’s been only a fraction of that time that it’s been a legal requirement, unlike other states that had the requirement much longer.

    Perhaps we should clean up the DMV manual with its arbitrary mix of “it would be a good idea” statements and “it”s the law” statements, all under the umbrella of “you should” statements. Telling people that they should yield to cars changing lanes and telling drivers that they can change lanes after signaling if the other drivers have time to slow down (i.e. not create a hazard) and then telling drivers “we didn’t really mean it. They have the right to change lanes, but you don’t really have to let them” is insanity. Why are we worrying about which headlamps to use when our vehicle code is a mess?

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