Wipers On? Headlights On

Author: Sandra S. Gregor, Fredericksburg, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Headlights and Wipers on Virginia is a “wipers-on, headlamps on” state, which means it is one of several states with laws requiring drivers to turn on their headlights whenever they need to use their windshield wipers.[1] Specifically, Virginia’s law provides that in addition to having to use headlights at night (from sunset to sunrise) and when visibility is reduced to 500 feet due unfavorable weather conditions or low lighting, drivers are required to use headlights “whenever windshield wipers are in use as a result of fog, rain, sleet, or snow.”[2] In 1998, Virginia passed a law requiring headlights to be used when windshield wipers are in use, being one of the first states to enact this requirement.   Over the last ten years, at least eighteen other states enacted similar legislation.[3]

Legislation regarding headlight usage was born from common sense. Vehicles with their headlights on are more visible to other drivers.  A 2011 study conducted by a lighting research center provides some evidence that this is indeed true.[4] In that study, researchers compared fatal crash data for seven states (including Virginia) that had recently established “wipers-on, headlamps on” laws between 1998 and 2007. Their research found statistically significant reductions in the proportion of daytime crashes in rainy weather after legislation was enacted, relative to the period before enactment. The study concluded that the odds of being killed in a multiple-vehicle crash during daytime rain are about 7 percent lower in states that have enacted “wipers-on” laws. It should be noted that the relationship between headlight usage and reduced crash risk was found only for multiple-vehicle crashes, and not for single-vehicle crashes.

Turning your headlights on when your windshield wipers are on is the law, and it improves safety on our roads.

About the Author: Sandy Gregor is a trial attorney with 15 years of courtroom experience. She was listed as a "Rising Star" by Virginia Super Lawyers Magazine for 3 years and is a member of the Virginia Womens Attorney Association. Sandy's practice includes car accident litigation, wrongful death litigation, and premises liability.


[1] See Va. Code § 46.2-1030.

[2] Id.

[3] See Headlight Use, AAA Digest of Motor Laws, http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/headlight-use/.

[4] See Bullough, J.D., Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Daytime Use of Automotive Headlamps During Inclement Weather: Safety and Conspicuity, December 2011. 

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