Road Rules 101: Headlights
When, by law, do you need to turn on your headlights?
It varies. Visibility, more than time of day, is the key to headlight use. Both Washington and Oregon law say to turn on headlights any time when, because of poor lighting or atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet. That means you can be found partially responsible for an accident at noon (broad daylight!) if it's a gray day and you're running without your lights on. Washington's laws also specify using lights "a half hour after sunset until a half hour before sunrise," while Oregon laws refer to using lights "any time from sunset to sunrise." Both Washington and Oregon require motorcyclists to use headlights at all times.
And a word of caution
Daytime running lights boost visibility for millions of drivers with newer cars. But on some models, daytime running lights activate the headlights only – leaving the taillights dark, potentially making you more vulnerable to a rear-end crash. (What's worse: In full darkness, some drivers mistakenly assume that because their instrument panel is illuminated, all their lights are on, too.) That means it's still a great habit to turn on the low beams before you even put the car in gear.
And if things seem a little dim even with your lights on? Make sure they're free of road grime. A coating of crud can reduce your headlights' effectiveness by 50% or more.
NOTE: While we're experts in loss prevention and home/auto safety, we don't consider ourselves experts in traffic laws or their enforcement. Information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have legal concerns, we urge you to contact a law enforcement source or attorney in your community.
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