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New California Law Requires Use of Headlights when Wipers Are On


Netlore Archive: Forwarded email claims that a new California law effective January 1, 2005 requires that drivers turn headlights on any time their windshield wipers are in use during daylight hours

Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: Jan. 2005
Status: True, though premature (see details below)

Email contributed by J. Seaton, Jan. 10, 2005:

Subject: FW: New Law in California

There hasn't been much publicity on this weather/headlights law, and looks like we all need to be aware of it.

Subject: New Law in California (Pass on to your family and friends)

There is a new law effective January 1, 2005. During daylight hours, if the windshield wipers of your vehicle are in use while you're driving the vehicle, the headlamps of the vehicle must be on. A co-worker was stopped by the highway patrol Wednesday morning, January 5, 2005 because he violated the new law. The first ticket is $45. The second is $150.

According to my co-worker, the Officer who gave him the ticket said he and his fellow Officers do not like the new law. He personally felt the new law should've been advertised before subjecting unsuspecting California motorists to it. He also told him that California State Legislators dreamed up this law to help close the budget gap or something like that.

Analysis: This message nicely illustrates one of the ways urban legends come into being. Beginning with a grain of truth — namely that a new California law will require drivers to turn on their headlights during daylight hours when it is raining — the story mushroomed into a cautionary tale about a driver allegedly being ticketed by a reluctant police officer for unknowingly violating said law.

However, the message was written and sent in January 2005 — six months before the law was scheduled to go into effect.

The new law went into effect July 1, 2005.

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Sources and further reading:

State Headlight Law Tied to Use of Wipers
San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 January 2005

Vehicle Code: Headlamps on Motor Vehicles
Amended California Vehicle Code

Last updated: 12/18/06

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