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It’s Ohio law: If wipers are on, lights must be on

Published: Mon, February 21, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Randy Ludlow

Columbus Dispatch


You’ve seen cars without their headlights shining pop out of a daytime curtain of rain or heavy snow.

Ohio’s law mandating motorists to turn on their lights when windshield wipers are in use has been on the books for more than a year, but some drivers apparently aren’t aware of the law or don’t care.

The use of headlights — and taillights — in bad weather is a common-sense matter of visibility, said Staff Lt. Tony Bradshaw of the State Highway Patrol.

“It’s a safety tool,” Bradshaw said. “It makes drivers’ vehicles as visible as possible during inclement weather. Drivers increase safety not just for themselves, but others as well. It helps drivers see oncoming vehicles.”

Before the law was enacted in 2009, Ohio required drivers to turn on their headlights between sunset and sunrise and when visibility declines to less than 1,000 feet. Ohio was the 17th state to require headlights to be on when wipers are on.

Since the start of 2010, state troopers have issued 1,057 citations statewide for all kinds of lights-out violations. No breakdown was available of the number of citations issued for failure to use headlights while wipers were on.

Franklin County had 96 lights-out violations, the most in the state. Montgomery County (the Dayton area) was second with 95.

Failure to use lights while wipers are in use is a secondary offense, meaning that motorists can be cited for violations only if police stop them for another offense, such as speeding. Violations are a minor misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine.

California officials credited lights-on/wipers-on reminders on highway message boards with increasing motorist awareness of their state’s law.

Ohio’s electronic traffic-message boards generally are reserved for crash and construction alerts and missing-person reports, but they have been used for public-safety reminders, said Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman David Rose.

The boards have featured “‘Click it or ticket” messages about seat-belt use, “Hang up, look up” warnings about using cell phones while driving, and “Slow for the cone zone” to remind drivers to reduce speed in construction areas.

The signs have not been employed to remind motorists of “Wipers on, lights on.”

“We’re open to the idea of such a reminder,” Rose said.


1foxyglo(372 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago


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2lee(544 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Good idea ---stupid law

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Agree with Lee. Just another reason why the state highway patrol has to be eliminated. Men and women paid thousands of doillars who wear badges and carry guns to write tickets of people who forget to turn on their lights when their wipers are on.

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4captdinger(108 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Hey author50, in case you don't know it the state highway patrol doesn't write the laws, they just enforce them, which they do a very good job of.

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5Stormieangel(136 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe cops should issue a warning to first time offenders. But this is the law and it is hard to see a car in dreary weather if they don't turn on their lights. I heard someone give me a great idea and I would like to see this as a new feature on cars....When the windshield wipers go on, the car lights automatically come on. Be nice if they could put such a control device on older cars. We are all human and tend to forget to turn on those lights....for safety, folks. I know the state uses it for an income medium, and yes, cops should be watching for the driver that is a real ass, passing, speeding, etc. But bottom line, it is the law; just turn the blasted light switch on to protect you, your loved ones and those other drivers who share the road around you. It really isn't a big deal for motorists to do this. JUST DO IT!!!!!
Just to add something else. Nice weather is coming and you will see more and more motorcycles on the highway. Please, please be aware of them, be cautious. When you make a turn or stop at a stop sign, look twice and save a life. The motorcyclist just loves what he is doing and he wants you to respect him and his mode of transportation. Thanks to all who read this.

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6ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

It is also Ohio law to have a front license plate, by 70% of vehicles with an MSRP over $29,000 don't have one. I understand, it's a way to feel like one is from Pennsylvania. I love PA, too, but the law is the law

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7pol26(26 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

I'd be really happy if people would remember to put their lights on at NIGHT!

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