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Ask a trooper - Turn on headlights during inclement weather

Q: I am a 34-year veteran police officer, nearing the end of my career. The recent snowfalls made me angry seeing all the drivers not using their headlights. I bet at least 25 percent (or more) of drivers did not have any lights on, and many just had daytime running lights, which are not legal headlights for inclement weather. When lights are required it means all vehicle lights are required, not just headlights. Headlights are also used so you can be seen, not just so you can see.

During the snowstorms I also saw many drivers had only their parking lights on while driving. Maybe you could try to educate the public about this. Many officers have been on the scene at serious-injury or even fatal crashes that could have been avoided if someone had had their headlights on.

Some vehicles with supposed automatic headlights don't actually turn on all the other lights that are required when headlights are. Sometimes officers are busy at a scene and don't have time to go chasing after non-headlight drivers, but some of them pay for it when they are in a crash. You would think that drivers would want to do all they can do to be safe and keep their passengers safe.

A: You about said it all, and very well at that. I will add that traffic safety officials everywhere are advocating just driving with your headlights on all the time so you don't have to worry about what all of the specific requirements of the law are. After the recent lengthy snow storms, I heard this exact complaint from many sources and regions.

In part, Minnesota State Statute 169.48 says: "Every vehicle upon a highway within this state: 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; shall display lighted headlamps, lighted tail lamps and illuminating devices ..."

A good rule of thumb: If your wipers need to be on, then your headlights should be on, too.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.

E-mail scrapbook@duluthnews.com or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you choose.

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