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Ask a trooper: Headlights required to be on during poor weather

Q: Please explain Minnesota law regarding the use of headlights. I was dumbfounded during the heavy snows of December how few people actually had their headlights on. I was under the impression this is a state law during snow, rain, fog, etc. -- not just when it gets dark. It's hard enough to see other vehicles in a snowstorm, let alone when they do not display headlights.

A: Many people tell me the rule they go by is when your windshield wipers are on, headlights also are required to be on. While this is generally true there are several more conditions when vehicle lighting is required.

Just as the question stated, headlights are required to be on any time it is raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing, and during low-light times. In addition to those requirements for lighting, you also need headlights to be on whenever weather such as fog, smoke or other inclement conditions do not allow you to clearly see other vehicles or people clearly at a distance of 500 feet.

Taillights are also to be on in these conditions. On most vehicles when the daytime running lights are displayed, the taillights are not on and they are not in compliance with the law.

I do not agree with the statement on how few people actually use their headlights when conditions require, but there are drivers that still need that reminder.

I would advise drivers to get into the habit of using their headlights more often, such as when the sun is behind them and the drivers of approaching vehicles are battling the glare. Lights are not just to help you see!