New law requires headlight use in bad weather

Tuesday, September 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:22 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A new law requires Missouri drivers to turn their headlights on during periods of inclement weather. Gov. Bob Holden signed the law into effect Aug. 28, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

The law mandates the use of headlights during fog and anytime weather conditions require the use of windshield wipers.

Highway Patrol Lt. Tim Hull said the law includes times of heavy dew or sprinkling rain.

“An officer will have to use their own discretion,” Hull said. “But in terms of the law, it’s pretty cut-and-dry.”

Hull also said violation of the law is considered a primary offense, meaning a driver can be pulled over for that rea-son alone.

While many states have similar laws already in effect, some Missouri residents say they didn’t need a law to drive safely in inclement weather.

“I keep my lights on when it’s raining and am careful,” said Angel Chavez of Columbia.

Before the language of the law was changed, drivers were required to use headlights from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise and any other time additional light was needed to drive in a “prudent” manner.

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, only 6 percent of fatal accidents and 8 percent of all accidents occur in foggy or rainy weather.

Hull also mentioned that most new cars have an optional feature that turns headlights on automatically when the car is started.

Still, law enforcement officials say they are pleased with the law. Charles Jackson, director of the Division of Public Safety, said national statistics show fewer accidents occur when drivers kept their lights on during bad weather.

“It helps to promote safety on the roads by increasing visibility so that people can see each other,” Hull said.

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