By Randy Ludlow
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.