When to Use Headlights in Virginia

Author: Ashley T. Davis, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

When are drivers required to illuminate their headlights?  In Virginia, drivers are required to use headlights at night, during inclement weather conditions, and whenever the vehicle’s windshield wipers are in use.[1]

  1. Drivers must use headlights at night.  Virginia does not specify the exact hours that headlights should be used.  Instead, the law requires drivers to use headlights from sunset to sunrise.[2]
  2. Drivers must use headlights during poor weather conditions.  The law states that headlights must be used at any time that rain, smoke, fog, snow, sleet, insufficient light, or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions reduce visibility to a degree whereby persons or vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet.[3]
  3. Finally, drivers must use headlights whenever windshield wipers are being used as a result of fog, rain, sleet, or snow.  However, headlights are not required when windshield wipers are being used intermittently in misting rain, sleet, or snow.[4]

Failing to use headlights at night or during inclement weather conditions can result in a citation (“traffic ticket”). Drivers who fail to use headlights when their windshield wipers are on will not get a citation unless the police officer stops or arrests them on suspicion of violating some other traffic law, local ordinance or criminal statute.

Headlights are required by law because they improve a driver’s ability to see and to be seen by other people and vehicles. Knowing when to use them can improve traffic safety and reduce the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident due to poor visibility.

About The Author: Ashley Davis is a research and writing attorney at Allen & Allen. Her role enables her to serve as a valuable resource to a team of 30 trial attorneys. She has over 10 years of legal experience and currently serves as the Blog Editor for the firm.


[1] Va. Code § 46.2-1030.

[2] Va. Code § 46.2-1030(A)(i).

[3] Va. Code § 46.2-1030(A)(ii).

[4] Va. Code § 46.2-1030(A)(iii).

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