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Wipers, snow and fog equal headlights

April 28, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Why do trains run with their headlights on? Answer: better visibility. Why do interstate buses (Greyhound, Trailways etc.) run with their headlights on? Better visibility. Why do all the countries in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and Canada require either daytime running lights or mandate that drivers without daytime running lights turn on their headlights? Answer: better visibility to other drivers.Why doesn't the United States require daytime running lights, or require drivers to turn on their lights at all times? Answer: There is no good answer, period!

There have been several of these "Did You Know" articles touting the benefits of headlights or daytime running lights being used while driving during the daytime. However, there are too many drivers that haven't got the message, judging by the number of drivers that don't turn their lights on during bad weather, or drive at dusk or dawn without lights. With today's volume of traffic and closing speeds in rural areas of 110 mph (assuming everyone is obeying the speed limit), or greater if they are exceeding the speed limit, it is of the utmost importance that other drivers are able to see you approaching them at the earliest possible time. Headlights, or daytime running lights (DRLs), provide that extra time and distance for other drivers to recognize your vehicle approaching. If your vehicle isn't easily visible to that oncoming driver, he/she may try to pass another vehicle, unaware that you are coming, or perhaps turn left in front of you, resulting in a dangerous head-on collision. Another example might be a vehicle pulling out from a side road in front of you because your vehicle wasn't easily visible in time.

Here's a tip - New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Paragraph 375-2a requires that you turn on your full headlights, not just daytime running lights, not parking lights, but full headlights whenever your wipers are on, including the intermittent position, and whenever visibility is less than 1000 feet. DRLs are better than no lights at all but do not qualify because they are not considered headlights according to the law, and with lights in the DRL position, there are no tail lights, which are required under article 375-2a.

Foggy conditions, often accompanying rainy weather, also require headlights. We, as drivers, must pay closer attention to our driving habits, and think a lot more about the complexities of driving.

When visibility is reduced, for any reason, we need headlights so oncoming drivers know we are there. If we can't be seen by other drivers, they may do unsafe things because we were not visible enough. A good driver wants his vehicle to be seen by all other drivers. Headlights are an important contribution toward this goal. In fact, headlights on all the time increase your ability to be seen by other drivers, regardless of weather conditions, and are proven to reduce crashes significantly during daylight hours, regardless of the weather. Be a safe and defensive driver! Drive at all times with your headlights or DRLs on like most other industrialized nations, even if you aren't required to do so under Vehicle and Traffic Law.

or more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's website at and click on Traffic Safety Board under "department."



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