The laws for car headlights

Updated February 21, 2017

Headlights, sometimes called head lamps, are standard, required equipment on all motor vehicles and motorcycles used on public roadways. Car headlamp laws differ between states, though they have the same general requirements no matter where you are. Contact your local division of motor vehicles or other state agency if you need information about your state's current laws.

Required Lights

State laws determine what kind of headlights each vehicle must have. For example, Ohio requires that every motor vehicle except motorcycles must be equipped with at least two headlights, according to Ohio Revised Code section 4513.04. These must be located on the front of the motor vehicle, with one light on each side. Motorcycles in Ohio must have at least one headlight. Motorcycles can have up to two headlights, but cannot have more.


States also have laws that cover the use of headlights during specific conditions, such as nighttime driving. For example, New York requires that drivers use their headlights in several situations, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. These situations include: when visibility is 1,000 feet or less; when windshield wipers are used during rain, snow or fog; or during the period a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after sunset.

High Beams

Apart from headlamps, state laws also govern the use of high beams or multiple-beam road lighting equipment. For example, Florida requires that whenever drivers approach oncoming traffic, any high-beam lamps must be turned off within 500 feet, according to Florida Statutes section 316.238. Also, drivers cannot use high-beams if within 300 feet of a car and approaching from behind. Any violation of Florida's high-beam laws is considered a noncriminal traffic infraction.

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About the Author

Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.