Is It Illegal to Drive with High Beams On?

by LegalFix
Posted: June 15, 2023
headlights and taillights

Safe driving conduct goes beyond courtesy, and failing to follow the rules of the road can result in traffic tickets, license suspension, and even jail time. Although you certainly know about common violations like speeding or illegal lane changes, others may come as a surprise. Still, ignorance is no excuse for compromising safety, and it’s your legal responsibility as a driver to be familiar with all applicable laws. For instance, today we'll be answering the question, “Is it illegal to drive with high beams on?” 

Headlights, High Beams, and Fog Lights 

Virtually all modern cars come with headlights that are capable of high-beam and low-beam functions. The low beam setting is sufficient for most nighttime driving, while high beams can help if you’re driving in rural areas or roads without streetlamps. 

It’s important to note that high beams are not the same as fog lights. Fog lights are specifically designed to cut through water particles and mist. Turning on your high beams in heavy fog, on the other hand, can cause the water particles in the air to reflect, impeding your vision even further. 

Adaptive Driving Beams

Some modern cars feature more sophisticated adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlight systems that can automatically shine more or less light on specific parts of the road in front of you by detecting oncoming cars.

 Although initially unavailable in the American market, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) amended Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, “Lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment,” allowing automakers to install ADB headlights on new vehicles beginning in February 2022. 

Daytime Running Lights

Although not federally required by the NHTSA, many cars also feature daytime running lights. These DRLs are integrated into the headlight assembly and remain on at all times, regardless of ambient light conditions. 

Is It Illegal to Drive with High Beams On? 

Although knowing when to use your high beams can make driving at night safer and easier, failing to use them properly can blind other drivers, leading to accidents. There is no federal mandate making it illegal to drive with high beams on, but all 50 states legislate the safe usage of headlights anytime there is a potential risk of blinding other drivers. 

 The stated distance for safe employment of high beams varies by state, but 500 feet for an approaching vehicle and 200 feet for vehicles you are following is considered the cutoff in most places. 

 Fines for failing to turn off your high beams to protect other drivers vary as well, but fines can range from $50 to $250, depending on your state as well as your previous infractions. 

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