Facebook Icon Twitter Icon YouTube Icon Instagram Icon LinkedIn Icon

Shining A Light on Headlight and Hazard Light Laws In NC

cars using headlights

When we’re driving at night, one of our first actions is to turn on our headlights. It’s even automatic in some vehicles, without needing to give it a second thought. But while we know that we need to utilize lights to drive in the dark, there are other times that we are mandated to use them as well. Here is what you need to know about using your headlights and hazard lights when driving in North Carolina.

Poor Visibility or Bad Weather Mandates Headlights

Did you know it’s mandatory to turn on your headlights whenever you turn on your windshield wipers? In North Carolina, using your windshield wipers without turning your headlights on is not legal. This means that even when visibility isn’t terrible, if you turn on your windshield wipers when it’s raining, you must turn on your headlights.

Under North Carolina law, “Motorists are required to use their headlights from sunset to sunrise and when light conditions restrict visibility to 400 feet or less… motorists are also required to use headlights while operating windshield wipers during inclement weather.”

When Should I Use My Hazard Lights?

In extremely bad weather other drivers may drive very slowly with their hazard lights on. But is that legal? According to the AAA, approximately half of all U.S. states make driving anywhere with your hazard lights on illegal. However, in the North Carolina DOT’s Safety Guide, it does not state that it is illegal within NC.

Determining whether your situation warrants using hazard lights is essential. Sometimes it may be better to utilize your headlights and wipers. In bad weather reducing speed, staying to the right, and leaving more distance between you and the car in front of you are always recommended.

Could Headlight Usage Laws Change?

According to a National Law Review study, turning on your headlights whenever you drive may reduce your odds of being involved in an accident. Studies have shown that headlight use during the daytime can reduce the number of accidents by up to 10 percent. Daytime headlight usage has helped reduce two-vehicle crashes by 5% and pedestrian accidents by 12%. It has also drastically affected head-on motorcycle accidents, reducing the number of those accidents by 23%.

More vehicle manufacturers are also incorporating daytime running lights (DRLs) into their new models. According to a recent study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, vehicles with automatic DRLs are statistically more likely to avoid visibility-based crashes than those without. In addition, the study showed that the risk of an accident was reduced by 8.8%, with the most significant reductions seen at higher speeds during dawn and dusk compared to bright daylight.

Is Driving with High Beams on Illegal?

According to North Carolina Law, it is illegal to blind other drivers within 500 feet of you on the road, and drivers must dim their high beams when approaching another motorist. The most common headlight-related charge is failing to dim them when approaching another vehicle. This could result in a penalty of $50 plus court costs.

While headlights are essential to help you drive safely in inclement weather and during evenings, they also have the potential to be distracting to other drivers. This is especially apparent in newer vehicle models, which can be equipped with LED headlights that are more long-lasting, energy efficient, and brighter by design. In some cases, newer vehicles are even recalled due to their LED headlights being too bright.

An Experienced North Carolina Auto Accident Attorney Can Help

No one expects to get in a car accident. When it happens, it could turn your world upside down and leave you feeling helpless. That’s where the compassionate car accident lawyers at Daggett Shuler step in. At Daggett Shuler, we use our extensive experience and legal knowledge to help and protect our neighbors in the Triad community when they need us most. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident due to the negligence or recklessness of another person, the experienced auto accident attorneys at Daggett Shuler can help.

Contact us today by submitting a form below or call our office at 336-724-1234 for a free, no-obligation consultation.


I would like to take time to thank the staff at Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law. To Megan Youngblood for helping me get my disability started; thank you so much for everything!

Olivia Winston