Dec 18, 2013

What are the dangers of driving without your headlights on?

It seems that so many cars are driving without their headlights on. What can be done to get all drivers ride with their lights on at night? Joann in Sandusky

Vermilion police Chief Chris Hartung provided the following responses to two related questions:

Q: What is the danger of not driving with your headlights on?

CH: Headlight laws are primarily a safety issue.  They are important not only for the driver's ability to see but for other people to see the vehicle as well.

Q: What charges, and possible fines, do people face if they're charged with a headlight violation?

CH: Driving from sunset to sunrise without your headlights on is a primary violation, meaning the officer can stop and cite you based on that alone.  Driving in conditions where visibility is limited to where substantial objects are not discernible to 1000 feet (a bridge on Ohio 2 because of a snow storm or heavy fog for example) is also a primary offense.  

You are also required to use you headlights when it's raining and your windshield wipers are on.

This, however, is a secondary offense that requires a primary offense to stop the vehicle (speeding or weaving for example). Both offenses are a minor misdemeanor and are waiverable, meaning you wouldn't have to appear in court and could mail the fine in as long as there weren't other charges that would require an appearance.  In Vermilion,

It would be $140.00 to waive that violation.

Hartung also provided direct language from the Ohio Revised Code pertaining to headlight rules and violation information.

4513.04 Headlights

(A) Every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, and every trackless trolley shall be equipped with at least two headlights with at least one near each side of the front of the motor vehicle or trackless trolley. 

Every motorcycle shall be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlights. 

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. 

Amended by 128th General Assembly File No.9, HB 1, §101.01, eff. 10/16/2009. 

Effective Date: 01-01-2004

4513.03 Time for lighted lights on motor vehicles

(A) Every vehicle, other than a motorized bicycle, operated upon a street or highway within this state shall display lighted lights and illuminating devices as required by sections 4513.04 to 4513.37 of the Revised Code during all of the following times:

(1) The time from sunset to sunrise; 

(2) At any other time when, due to insufficient natural light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons, vehicles, and substantial objects on the highway are not discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead;

(3) At any time when the windshield wipers of the vehicle are in use because of precipitation on the windshield. 

Every motorized bicycle shall display at such times lighted lights meeting the rules adopted by the director of public safety under section 4511.521 of the Revised Code. No motor vehicle, during such times any time specified in this section, shall be operated upon a street or highway within this state using only parking lights as illumination. 

Whenever in such sections a requirement is declared as to the distance from which certain lamps and devices shall render objects visible, or within which such lamps or devices shall be visible, such distance shall be measured upon a straight level unlighted highway under normal atmospheric conditions unless a different condition is expressly stated. 

Whenever in such sections a requirement is declared as to the mounted height of lights or devices, it shall mean from the center of such light or device to the level ground upon which the vehicle stands. 

(B) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, no law enforcement officer shall cause the operator of a vehicle being operated upon a street or highway within this state to stop the vehicle solely because the officer observes that a violation of division (A)(3) of this section has been or is being committed or for the sole purpose of issuing a ticket, citation, or summons for a violation of that division, or causing the arrest of or commencing a prosecution of a person for a violation of that division.

(C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. 

Amended by 128th General AssemblyFile No.9,HB 1, §101.01, eff. 10/16/2009. 

Amended by 128th General Assemblych.9,HB 2, §101.01, eff. 7/1/2009. 

Effective Date: 01-01-2004

The Mailbag is a daily feature on Each weekday at noon, we will post one question from a reader and answer it. To ask a question, send a letter to The Mailbag at 314 W. Market St., or email Please include your first name and a location in the email, e.g. “John from Decatur Street."


The Don

Really!? What a stupid article. Next weeks topic...What are the dangers of driving with your eyes closed?


yeah, I have to agree with you..

Bottom Line


mimi's word

It may sound realy silly but I have seen SOOOO many peolpe drive in conditions where there are to have their headlights on and don't maybe this was just a way to bring it up so people start to use their heads. Remember it isn't always a way of seeing better but a better way of being seen


Mimi, your right, it is sillllyy- (he he he he) - I have seen SOOOOOOOOOOOO many of you ladies driving 75 in a 55 while applying eyeliner, hairspray, doing your nails and talking on a cell phone- all at the same time! But I'm SOOOOOOOO glad you had your headlights on so I could avoid you. (although you were lookin good girl- yeah)