When are drivers legally required to turn their headlights on in New York State? I was recently driving in another state where drivers were required to turn on their headlights in work zones. It got me to wondering what New York State law says.

Photo by Eugene Triguba on Unsplash
Photo by Eugene Triguba on Unsplash

When Were Headlights Put On Cars?

According to Ford, headlights were put on cars in the 1900s. Drivers could no longer rely on horses to help them navigate,

Prior to the automobile, lamps were placed on carriages to enable it to be seen at night. The driver relied on the horse to find its way on dark roads. With the introduction of the horseless carriage, it became necessary for the driver to be able to navigate the dark roads on their own.

1909 - Gas headlamps
1915 - Electric headlamps
1920s - Two filaments
1923 - Dimmer pedals

Photo by Bini on Unsplash
Photo by Bini on Unsplash

When Are New York Drivers Required To Use Headlights?

There are several scenarios that legally require drivers in New York to use their headlights. According to the New York Safety Council:

1. Drivers must turn on their headlights a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset.

2. When, for whatever reason, visibility is reduced to less than 1,000 feet.

As a point of reference, an American football field is 360 feet long. So if you estimate that you can't see the length of three football fields, flip your lights on. This is especially important on foggy, snowy, or rainy days.

3. Whenever you are using your windshield wipers.

4. Motorcycle drivers are required to have their headlights on at all times, day and at night.

5. Bicycle riders must have

a white headlight that is visible up to 500 feet and a red taillight visible up to 300 feet when riding between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise.


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