What Are California's Headlight Laws?

What Are California’s Headlight Laws?

What if you were in an accident where the driver didn’t use their headlights or was using illegal headlights?

Most drivers understand that vehicle headlights serve not only to increase their own range of vision during low visibility but also to make themselves visible to other motorists. By respectfully adhering to California headlight laws, everyone on the road can significantly reduce the odds of experiencing a car accident at night or during inclement weather while also navigating California’s notoriously congested traffic.

LA Century Law has experience in a wide range of personal injury and auto accident cases. Consult with our attorneys to learn more about proper headlight use and how you can proceed after experiencing an accident with someone who violated the state’s headlight laws.

California Headlight Laws Overview

California law requires all vehicles, except motorcycles, to have at least two headlights, with one placed on either side of the vehicle’s front end. A number of other laws apply to headlights and their use as well.

When should you turn on your headlights in California?

Drivers must turn on their headlights in the dark or during inclement weather. California headlight laws define this as any weather condition that “prevents a driver of a motor vehicle from clearly discerning a person or another motor vehicle from a distance of 1,000 feet or a condition requiring the windshield wipers to be in use due to rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture.”

Is it legal to use fog lights in California?

Fog lights or fog lamps are lights mounted lower than typical headlights on many vehicles for the purpose of illuminating the ground below layers of fog. It is entirely legal to have fog lights and for drivers to use them as they see fit, though fog lights cannot replace headlights in situations that require them.

Can you use aftermarket headlights in California?

Aftermarket headlights and LED headlights are legal in California so long as they comply with color and brightness standards and come with amber-colored turn signals.

Can you use other-colored headlights in California?

Headlights in the state of California must exhibit white light. Other headlights, such as those that exhibit blue light, can be overly bright, intense, or distracting for other drivers.

What are California’s laws about headlight positions?

Some aftermarket vehicle modifications might include altering the positioning of headlights. California headlight laws state that headlights must be at least 22 inches off the ground and no higher than 54 inches. Headlights positioned outside of this range may not adequately illuminate the road or might blind other drivers.

Dangers of Improper Headlight Use

Improper headlight use can entail failing to turn on headlights during low-visibility conditions, driving with dimmed or broken lamps, or using headlights in such a way that might blind another driver. The dangers of such improper use can include the following:

  • Limiting one’s own visibility
  • Fatigue caused by straining one’s own vision
  • Increased likelihood of a collision

The worst-case scenario following a violation of California headlight law is for one party to sustain a severe injury. If this occurs, the next step may be to file a personal injury claim to secure the compensation necessary for covering medical bills and lost income.

Using High-Intensity Headlights in California

While some aftermarket headlight modifications are legal in the state of California, it is important to know when high-intensity headlights are unacceptable. HID headlights must measure within the limit of 2,513 lumens to be street legal according to California’s headlight brightness law.

Similarly, there are limits to when drivers may use their high beams on California roads. Though high beams are useful for seeing across greater distances during low visibility conditions, it is more than just common courtesy to turn them off in the presence of other vehicles. In fact, California headlight laws state that drivers must turn off their high beams when approaching an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet or when following a vehicle within 300 feet.

How Headlights Impact a Personal Injury Case

When a car accident occurs, improper headlight use may serve to establish liability in the incident if one party is guilty of not using their headlights when required or using overly bright lights. All motorists on the road owe each other a duty of care, and a driver who demonstrates negligence in that duty by exhibiting improper headlight usage is fully or partially at fault for an accident that occurs as a result.

Motorists can also be liable for accidents resulting from improper headlight use, even if they are not actively driving. Leaving one’s headlights on while in a parked position can contribute to the likelihood of an accident if the lights point at the road in such a way that they may blind an active driver.

In addition to any other penalties and damages that an at-fault driver must pay when liable for an accident, violating California headlight laws also implies a fine of at least $238 and a point against one’s driving record.

Contact Our Attorneys to Help You

The use — or misuse — of headlights can play a critical role in a motor vehicle accident. If you sustain damage or injuries in a crash that occurred during low-visibility conditions, the team at LA Century Law can help you navigate complex California headlight laws and investigate the circumstances of the accident. Contact our personal injury lawyers in California to schedule a consultation today.

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