Headlight Laws in New York State: What You Might Not Know

headlights in rainMany modern cars have automatic headlights that flip on as soon as the ignition is turned. Even if your vehicle’s headlights are in auto mode, it’s important to understand headlight laws in case you need to drive a family member’s car or rent a car. These are some essential things to know about the headlight laws in the state of New York.

Headlights During the Day and Night

New Yorkers are required to use their headlights one half-hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise. The headlights on your vehicle cover about 350 feet ahead of you, so it’s important that you travel at a speed that allows you to stop safely within that amount of distance. Night driving is more dangerous than day driving because of limited visibility, so always slow down when the sun goes down. Most people’s ability to see well at night decreases with age, so be mindful of that fact with each birthday that passes. Also be considerate of your fellow drivers when using your high beams and switch over to your low beam headlights when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 200 feet of a vehicle in front of you.

Headlights and Weather Conditions

In New York, you must turn your headlights on when your visibility is reduced to 1,000 feet or less. As a point of reference, an American football field is 360 feet long. So if you estimate that you can’t see the length of three football fields, flip your lights on. Some other states have visibility limit laws of just 400 or 500 feet. This is especially important on foggy, snowy, or rainy days. Additionally, you are required to have your headlights on any time that you are using your windshield wipers, whether it is for rain, snow, sleet, or ice. Headlight high beams reflect rain and snow when it falls, making it harder to see, so only use your low beam headlights while driving in wet weather.

Motorcycle and Bicycle Headlights

Motorcycles in New York are required to have their headlights on at all times during the day and at night. This helps other drivers see motorcycles better on the road and prevent deadly roadway accidents. Bicyclists must use a white headlight that is visible up to 500 feet and a red taillight visible up to 300 feet when riding between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise. Similarly, these lights help New Yorkers see cyclists better to prevent accidents and injuries. Headlight laws vary slightly from state to state, and breaking these laws could result in you getting pulled over and issued a traffic ticket. If you’re planning to take a road trip to another state, make sure to check that state’s vehicle code to make sure you know about any rules of the road you might not be used to. When in doubt, keep your headlights on!


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