Auto Accident

Observing California's Headlight Law Lowers Accident Risks

Two cars at night facing the camera at an angel showing their headlights on.

While the state's sunny days get all the attention, California's evenings are just as delightful. With mild temperatures and a plethora of places to dine, dance, and socialize within walking distance, a trip at night is just as exciting to do. For instance, there is often more traffic at night in California's major entertainment districts, and you're more likely to encounter motorists under the influence of alcohol. However, this fundamental cause of nighttime car accidents is rarely emphasized.

These threats include issues with the vehicle's headlights.

If you are in a headlights-related accident due to another driver's broken headlights, you could bring a personal injury claim against them. An experienced California car accident lawyer may clarify the procedure and answer legal issues during a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Headlight-Related Dangers on California Highways

While headlights try to mitigate some of these concerns by allowing the driver to see in low-visibility situations, they can also endanger other drivers. They can cause momentary blindness and result in vehicles leaving their travel lanes. On the other hand, driving without headlights impairs the driver's eyesight and how easily other drivers can see surrounding vehicles.

Here are the most common headlight-related dangers to avoid:

1. No Headlights

Approximately half of all fatal motor vehicle accidents occur at night, dawn, or dusk. All motor vehicles, save motorcycles, are required by California law to have one headlight on each side of the vehicle's front end.

Drivers must use their headlights in the dark and in adverse weather conditions that make it difficult to distinguish a person or another motor vehicle from 1,000 feet away.

Why would someone not use headlights if they allow you to see ahead and let other vehicles see you? The most popular but unwise replies are that the street lights were bright enough to distract the motorist or that the driver's headlights went out.

2. Faulty Headlights

Driving with a damaged headlight is illegal in California because you cannot operate a vehicle without two lighted headlamps. Furthermore, having only one headlight reduces your ability to see the road and any objects in your route. In addition to providing insufficient light, faulty headlights can cause the lights to flash abruptly, causing confusion or temporarily blinding drivers.

3. Dimmed Headlights

Headlight strength varies widely between vehicles and affects a driver's ability to avoid an accident. Under ideal conditions, the average motorist needs around 1.5 seconds to react to an unexpected event (a clear, sunny day). 

If a car moves at 55 miles per hour, it will cover approximately 120 feet in one and a half seconds of travel. On average, drivers will require around 144 more feet for the brakes to completely stop the vehicle. 

Dim headlights, especially on the low beam level, will cause drivers to fail to see and respond to a road hazard until they cannot avoid an accident.

4. Changing to Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) or Foglights (Foglamps)

Foglamps, often known as foglights, aid drivers in seeing and navigating the road during dense fog. In wet weather, most drivers utilize their standard headlights. However, vehicles should only use their foglamps when there is fog. These lights can blind other drivers in clear, dark situations.

Similarly, some drivers travel at night with their daytime running lights (DRLs) rather than headlights. Drivers should also avoid doing this because these lights boost a car's visibility to other drivers but do not effectively illuminate the road for drivers to see well at night.

5. High-Intensity Headlights (HID)

If you've ever seen a newer model vehicle with excessively bright headlights, you've probably experienced what most motorists complain about-high-intensity headlights. These headlights first appeared in select luxury vehicles. Many more manufacturers have now followed suit.

These high-intensity headlights replicate driving situations during the day. While these lights benefit drivers with this technology installed in their vehicles, they can be dangerous to drivers in oncoming traffic lanes. According to the California Highway Patrol, the state's traffic rule requires that all headlights provide white light.

Another issue with HID headlights is the upgrades to a car is that they frequently emit blue light instead of white light. They end up shining too brightly for use on the road. So before installing them. Drivers must follow more requirements while using HID headlights in raised or lowered vehicles.

6. Colored Headlights

Although some HID, LED, or Xenon headlights appear blue, they emit a very bright white light that can appear blue compared to the yellowish tone of older-model automobile headlights. 

However, as in every other state, California law prohibits using blue, green, red, or other colored bulbs. The limitation of colorful headlights is that they do generally not emit enough light to aid drivers when driving at night.

7. Street Parking with Bright Lights On

Vehicles parked along the road, in parking lots, or in private driveways with bright headlights can also cause accidents because they shine in the eyes of surrounding drivers. Drivers in California can receive a ticket for leaving their bright lights on while parked. The motorist may be held liable for any injuries or property damage that follow.

Establishing Fault in a California Headlight Crash

In terms of automotive insurance, California is a liability state. Injuries and property damage caused by insured drivers must be covered by liability insurance. If you cannot prove that the driver with the faulty headlights was the cause of the collision, the driver's liability insurance will not cover these expenses.

Determining fault in any type of accident can be challenging without understanding the specifics of the collision. Typically car accidents are caused by a combination of circumstances.

However, if the collision was caused exclusively by a problem with one of the vehicles involved headlights, the driver of that vehicle has responsibility for ensuring that their vehicle maintains proper, functional order and follows state and local traffic laws.

You can establish negligence in your case by establishing the following elements:

  • The Negligent Party Owes Duty of Care: A driver's duty of care is to protect others' safety and property. Reasonable drivers would observe headlight laws to see others on the road and be seen.
  • The Negligent Party Did Not Exercise Reasonable Care: This will be demonstrated by the defendant's acts that violated California's headlight regulations or impaired their ability to see or be seen on the road.
  • The Breach Caused Your Headlight Accident: If it is proven beyond doubt that the accident was a headlight accident, the injuries cost the victim money and damage.

Is It Possible for Someone Else to Be Held Accountable?

Not every accident is caused by one driver or a combination of drivers. This includes headlight accidents. 

If a defective headlight caused the accident, then the manufacturer and distributor of the vehicle may also be held accountable.

This is a product liability case, and it requires establishing one of three headlight flaws:

  • A headlight design defect impacts the entire model.
  • A defect in the lights' construction or wiring.
  • A packing fault occurs when the manufacturer's instructions fail to list known and unjustifiable hazards.


California's headlight law is effective in reducing accident risks. The law requires drivers to turn on their headlights in certain conditions, such as poor visibility or rain. This helps ensure that drivers are more visible to other drivers and pedestrians and makes it easier for them to see the road ahead. The headlight law is just one of many laws designed to keep Californians safe on the road. It is an integral part of keeping our roads safe for everyone.

You need a winning team like Mendez and Sanchez Law for the best Los Angeles truck accident lawyers. Our lawyers and the rest of our team are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have incurred some injury due to an accident, have workers' compensation, slip and fall, or need other legal help. Call us for a free consultation at (323) 838-1444.


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