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Why isn’t the law requiring headlights to be on in inclement weather enforced?

Brandy Bryant
StarNews
Traffic moves along Market Street as rains from tropical depression Beryl fall in Wilmington on May 30, 2012. StarNews photo by Mike Spencer.

Traffic moves along Market Street as rains from tropical depression Beryl fall in Wilmington on May 30, 2012. StarNews photo by Mike Spencer.

Q. In inclement weather, I see many vehicles on the road without headlights on, as required by law. And I mean headlights, not parking lights. Why isn’t this law enforced?

A. The NC General Statute 20-129 governing driving in inclimate weather without using headlights states:

At any other time when windshield wipers are in use as a result of smoke, fog, rain, sleet, or snow, or when inclement weather or environmental factors severely reduce the ability to clearly discern persons and vehicles on the street and highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead, provided, however, the provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to instances when windshield wipers are used intermittently in misting rain, sleet, or snow. Any person violating this subdivision during the period from October 1, 1990, through December 31, 1991, shall be given a warning of the violation only. Thereafter, any person violating this subdivision shall have committed an infraction and shall pay a fine of five dollars ($5.00) and shall not be assessed court costs. No drivers license points, insurance points or premium surcharge shall be assessed on account of violation of this subdivision and no negligence or liability shall be assessed on or imputed to any party on account of a violation of this subdivision. The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall incorporate into driver education programs and driver licensing programs instruction designed to encourage compliance with this subdivision as an important means of reducing accidents by making vehicles more discernible during periods of limited visibility.

According to Linda M. Rawley, Police Information and Community Relations Officer with the Wilmington Police Department, Police Officers use their discretion when enforcing this law based on the wording of the general statute and any travel safety concerns that are demonstrated.

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4 Responses to “ Why isn’t the law requiring headlights to be on in inclement weather enforced?”

  1. On August 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm Eugene wrote:

    So. It’s not a moving violation that incurs points on insurance or money for NC’s pursue. It’s just not worth the hassle for $5. That explains a lot.

  2. On August 7, 2013 at 4:03 am mike C wrote:

    And there’s the reason so many people do not turn their lights on in crummy weather – there’s no ‘stick’ – the fine is only $5 and no points or insurance penalty. If you’ve ever been in hard rain/snow and come up behind someone without their lights on, it’s pretty disconcerting to say the least, never mind driving on a two lane road and oncoming traffic has no lights(!!); you don’t see them until you are on top of them. Almost as scary as coming up on a bicyclist during low light with no reflective gear on!

  3. On August 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm Dave wrote:

    Enforcing the safe following distance law would lower the accident rate more than anything else, IMO. Rear-end accidents are the cause of your high auto insurance rates in New Hanover County. On the German autobahn there are cameras set up to ticket for following too close.

  4. On August 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm Eggbert Jones wrote:

    On humid, hot days, when it starts raining, the steam from the water hitting the pavement makes everything blurrier. I have seen grey cars completely disappear if they don’t have their lights on. Your rear window fogs up too in the humidity from rain. It may be a tiny fine, but death from not turning on your lights is just stupid. Its not like it costs you more to run your lights or something, folks.