Law of the month

Headlights help motorists see what’s ahead - and allow other travelers to see you

Fall is a time of year when hours of daylight grow shorter and weather conditions like fog can create challenges for motorists. The Wisconsin State Patrol’s October Law of the Month covers laws and safety tips on proper vehicle lighting.

“Keeping all lights on your vehicle clean and functioning properly allows drivers to see what’s ahead and will help ensure that other travelers can see you,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent J.D. Lind said. “It’s also a good idea to clean the outside and inside of your vehicle’s windows to help enhance vision and reduce glare.”

  • State law requires drivers to use headlights during hours of darkness - defined as the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise - and all other times when there is insufficient natural light to clearly see a person or vehicle 500 feet away (equivalent to about one-and-a-half football fields). Driving with defective vehicle lights can result in a warning from law enforcement requiring vehicle owners to complete needed repairs within a specified time frame. State law (347.06) provides for a citation of $163 and assessment of three demerit points for operating a motor vehicle without required lamps lighted.
  • State law (347.12) requires drivers to dim their headlights whenever approaching or following within 500 feet of another vehicle.
  • In 2016, state law was revised to require headlight use any time that weather conditions (such as fog, rain or snow) make it difficult to discern objects 500 feet away.

“Many modern vehicles have an automatic headlight setting that functions well in most driving scenarios,” Superintendent J.D. Lind said. “But, when in doubt, it’s a good idea to simply click on your vehicle’s low beam headlights.”

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Previous laws of the month

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