What Are California’s Headlight Laws?

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Headlights are sometimes contributing factors in car accidents. When a driver fails to use headlights properly, it will cause them to not adequately see or be seen at night. Using headlights that are too bright can impact other drivers’ ability to navigate.

If you have suffered an injury in a car accident where headlight use or the failure to use the was an issue, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact our California car accident attorneys at Sargent Law Firm to learn more about your legal rights.

When Drivers Are Required to Use Headlights in California?

California law requires the use of headlights under the following circumstances:

  • From 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise
  • Inclement weather, including rain and fog
  • When the weather does not allow you to see another vehicle from 1,000 feet away

California Restrictions on Color and Positioning of Headlights

Like every other state, California headlight law has strict requirements for the type of headlights that must be used. The headlights must be clear and exhibit white light. They cannot be colored.

In addition, some vehicle owners may modify the positioning of their headlights, which is dangerous because they can shine directly in the face of another driver in front of them when they look in their rear-view mirror.

In California, headlights must be at least 22 inches off the ground and can be no higher than 54 inches. Fog lights must be at least 12 inches off the ground and can be no more than 30 inches in height. Headlight placement can be an issue on large pickup trucks or SUVs. In sports cars, the headlights may be too low for cars that sit low to the ground.

California Restrictions on the Use of High-Beam Headlights

While California requires the use of headlights, drivers can still cause injuries to others when they use the headlights improperly. For example, high-beam headlights (also known as brights) cannot be used when within 500 feet of other vehicles.

In addition, it is illegal to use high beams within 300 feet of a vehicle that the driver is following. Nonetheless, drivers should still use their high beams whenever possible in open areas when it is difficult to see. They should dim their high beams when they see other cars near them.

There are some very bright headlights that are not considered to be high-beam. Some newer luxury cars have high-intensity headlights that are intended to simulate daytime. These headlights themselves are legal, so long as they emit a clear light.

In California, Some Aftermarket Modifications of Headlights Can Be Illegal

No manufacturer can legally sell a vehicle that does not have proper headlights. The issue is that vehicle owners in California may make aftermarket modifications that make the headlights illegal, either by changing the color of the light or changing the position of the headlight. The owner may install the highest-intensity lights when the car already has halogen lamps. These lamps are illegal, and the driver may receive a citation.

To avoid being blinded, drivers will need to look away from the headlights. If they look directly at them, they may lose their vision, which is already compromised at night. The problem is that looking away from the headlights can cause the driver to take their eyes off the road and impact their ability to avoid an obstruction or negotiate a turn.

Illegal Headlight Use May Be a Factor in Car Accidents

In some cases, the actions of a third party can contribute to the accident. For example, a driver may have lost control of their car because they were temporarily blinded by another driver improperly using their high beams. The third party, assuming that they can be tracked down, may have some liability for the accident.

Every driver on the road owes you and your passengers the duty of care. It does not have to be the driver who was involved in the collision with you that did not act reasonably under the circumstances. A reasonable driver properly uses their headlights and follows the law about which color they may be and when they cannot use high beams.

An Attorney Can Investigate Your Car Accident

When you have been involved in a car crash, and you believe that it was the result of improper headlight use, you should hire an experienced car accident attorney in California. Your attorney can gather relevant evidence and speak with witnesses who can confirm what you believe you saw. You will need evidence that can prove that another driver was negligent and they caused your injuries. Then, you will be in a position to negotiate financial compensation in a settlement with the insurance company.

Contact a Southern California Car Accident Attorney Today

The Sargent Law Firm Injury Lawyers help clients who have suffered an injury contributed to by improper headlights. We can work to gather the proof that can show that another driver was acting out of line with California headlight laws, and then we’ll work to get you the highest possible settlement.

First, you need to contact an attorney to discuss your case. To schedule your free initial consultation, you can send us a message online or call us today at 844-SARGENT.

Car Accident Case FAQs

Should I file an insurance claim or sue the driver?

Most people will file an insurance claim first, but your lawyer will advise you about the most effective legal strategy.

What if the insurance company denies my claim?

Then, you will have no choice but to file a lawsuit if you want financial compensation for your injuries.

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