L.A. Can't Drive » Wipers on = Headlights on. It’s the Law.

Wipers on = Headlights on. It’s the Law.


So it’s been essentially raining more or less nonstop for the past 2 days.  However, this post won’t be another tirade about how Los Angelenos need practice driving in the rain.  Rather, today’s post is about common sense and knowledge of our traffic laws.  2 1/2 years ago, California adopted a law requiring that headlights (not driving lights; not fog lights) must be turned on whenever your windshield wipers are in operation (ie. whenever it’s raining) regardless of the time of day.  It has been proven in many other states that had this law in effect years before 2005 that increasing the visibility of one’s vehicle whenever the sky is falling prevented traffic accidents.  Hell, you don’t have to be a bloody genius to figure out that when you have crap falling on your windshield and two long rods waving in front of your eyes at regular intervals, it’s harder to see anything on the road.  Do you want to get hit by a driver that just didn’t happen to see you in time?  I didn’t think so; so turn on your damn headlights.

But the logical argument for headlights is a moot point because, quite frankly, the law requires that we use our headlights whenever it’s raining, even if it doesn’t make sense to the intellectually stunted.  So why on earth do we still have so many idiots driving in Los Angeles in the rain without their headlights on after 2 1/2 years?  Did no one pay attention to the news in this town (other than Us Weekly or Variety), because I remember when New York adopted that law, everyone heard about it, and most of us in the city didn’t even drive on a regular basis.   I will assume that California likewise made a big deal about this new law when it went into effect.  Yet for some reason, you have drivers like the one above on Little Santa Monica aimlessly roaming the streets in an “unlit” vehicle while it’s raining–forget about the fact that when I took this photo, it was dark enough to have your headlights on, regardless of the rain.


In fact, today I saw no fewer than 25 cars driving around with their windshield wipers on at full tempo without any headlights on.  That is an inordinately large percentage of ignorant drivers.  A few had their driving lights on, which is better than nothing I suppose.  Yet in the photos above and below, you can clearly see cars with their wipers in operation absentmindedly navigating San Vicente and 6th St without any lights.


However, this entry would not be complete without our asshole of the (rainy) day:

Idiocy Meter
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Asshole Meter
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Not only did this guy on Burton have illegally tinted front side windows in his Rav4 (the law states that more than 70% of light must be let in), but he was another driver whose vehicle was sans headlights.  So that’s two traffic laws that he’s violated right there.  Oh wait, add another one for not signaling for lane changes; this punk was aggressively cutting in and out of lanes in typical asshole-in-rush hour fashion.  He also was speeding up to the rear of vehicles ahead of him and tailgating like a jackass in clear and dry weather–instead, he’s a dumb jackass in cloudy, slippery, rainy weather.  I noticed his “gangsta” tilt behind the wheel through his front windshield when I was in front of him through my rearview mirror.  What mature adult steers with the bottom of his wrist resting on the steering wheel anyway?  I wonder how bad ass he’ll feel paralyzed from the waist down if he keeps driving the way he does.

9 Responses to “Wipers on = Headlights on. It’s the Law.”

  1. This is one of the few times I think running lights are really a good idea. Technically the headlights are on, so one is in full compliance with the law – unless the law somehow specifically excludes them. I doubt it.

    Thursday night I was driving home, and the rain was coming down so hard that it was very difficult to see, the freeway was slightly flooded, and people were driving insanely in TWO ways – some were driving way too fast and taking risks – and others were driving so slow that they were hazards in their own right. Some people need to keep in mind that YOUR BRAKES ARE WET and you need extra time to stop.

  2. I totally agree with you about running lights regarding this point. It helps save the trouble for the careless or lazy. Are all running lights the same intensity as low-beam headlights? Some running lights don’t activate the tail lights, though.

  3. On my car the DRL are about half the intensity of full headlights. Mine doesn’t activate the tail lights either, but I doubt that’s a part of the law, or as crucial as having the headlights on. (Once you start braking it’s a moot point)

    I usually turn my headlights on when it’s even cloudy. Just seems to make sense.

  4. Headlights and auxiliary lights are very well defined in the vehicle code, so technically driving lights are not headlights as driving lights are designed to supplement the headlights, not replace them.

    If your wipers are in continuous use, then your headlights must be on. I wonder how this applies to interval wipers….

  5. Steve, I completely agree with you. With regards to the v.c.:

    24400. (a) A motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, shall be:

    (1) Equipped with at least two headlamps, with at least one on each side of the front of the vehicle, and, except as to vehicles registered prior to January 1, 1930, they shall be located directly above or in advance of the front axle of the vehicle. The headlamps and every light source in any headlamp unit shall be located at a height of not more than 54 inches nor less than 22 inches.

    (2) Operated during darkness, or inclement weather, or both, with at least two lighted headlamps that comply with paragraph (1).

    (b) As used in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a), “inclement weather” is a weather condition that is either of the following:

    (1) A condition that prevents a driver of a motor vehicle from clearly discerning a person or another motor vehicle on the highway from a distance of 1,000 feet.

    (2) A condition requiring the windshield wipers to be in continuous use due to rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture.

    The issue is continuous use. Regarding interval wipers, my assumption would be that that would constitute continuous use given that the wipers are placed at a setting other than off. In issues where someone just toggles the wipers once to just clear off some moisture that might have fallen from a tree or an overpass, then I would assume that does not constitute as continuous use.

    The interesting thing to note is that the law clearly states that you have to have at least 2 working headlamps. All too often we only see cars with only one working headlight traveling at night or in inclement weather.

  6. Totally agree! Today is one of those days too!

  7. Russell and I-95,
    You 2 are debating running lights versus headlights and weather tail lights come on…. Get a clue guys, the law was written because the general public in California is too stupid to realize that inclement weather is akin to nighttime driving as far as visibility.
    You need lights (front and rear) to help other drivers see you before they hit you. Not everyone is going to hit you head-on. It is more likely they will hit you from behind thus the need for tail lights also. By writing the law to read “headlights” the law maker (author) does not need to spell it out (for the less intelligent folks) that you need front and rear lights because tail lights automatically come on with the headlights.
    I grew up in the mid-west and I have been in Southern CA for 20+ years and it still amazes me how many drivers here have no common sense when it comes to bad weather driving.

  8. Dave, I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, there are way too many drivers here who feel that daytime running lights suffice for driving in inclement weather. You’re absolutely right in emphasizing the face that when we talk about turning on your headlights on this blog, we’re emphasizing that your taillights need to be on as well.

  9. “Continuous Use” of wipers means not set at intermittent. If you only need your wipers operating at intermittent to see clearly, you are not required to have your headlights on under the law.

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