If you have automatic headlights, chances are they begin to click on as soon as the sun starts to set. Without automatic headlights, you probably wait as the streets begin to dim and then switch them on to alert other drivers of your presence. But do you know when your headlights must be turned on?

Headlight laws vary depending on weather conditions, the type of roadway, and specific state laws. However, it’s general practice that your headlights must be in use from sunset to sunrise, and taillights must operate in conjunction with headlights.

When atmospheric conditions limit visibility, fog lights or low beams should be used with headlights and taillights. High beams should be avoided in inclement weather, and they must be dimmed when approaching other motor vehicles. Additionally, hazard lights should only be used to alert other drivers of danger.

For a detailed breakdown of when you must use headlights and what headlight courtesy is for drivers sharing the road, check out these headlight laws for all 50 states.

Daytime Headlight Use Laws

Don’t let the sun being out trick you into thinking you don’t need your headlights on. There are several reasons why daytime headlight use isn’t just recommended, but required by certain state laws. Depending on where you’re driving, you can receive a pricey ticket for failing to use your headlights.

For one, inclement weather conditions, such as snow, sleet, rain, hail, or fog, always require daytime headlight use. Some states even require mandatory headlight usage if your windshield wipers are on. Be sure to check your state’s headlight laws below to see if this applies in your area.

Secondly, you may be required to use daytime headlights on sections of road that have limited visibility—such as mountain roads, country roads, or narrow, two-lane highways. In these instances, daytime headlights help make your car visible to oncoming vehicles, and they can help prevent a car accident. Areas that require the daytime use of headlights are typically marked with “Daylight Headlights Section” signage.

Do You Need Daytime Running Lights?

Though not legally required in the U.S., many new automobiles are now equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). Daytime Running Lights are automatic, low-beam headlights that emit a dull white, yellow, or amber light. Unlike automatic headlights that only turn on when the road ahead is dim, DRLs switch on as soon as the car is turned on, no matter the visibility conditions.

Front headlamp view of silver car with lead day running DRL light and bi-xenon lens

Daytime Running Lights are not meant to help you see the road. Rather, their purpose is to help oncoming traffic see you. Many newer vehicles include DRLs as a precautionary measure to help reduce the risk of collision. While countries in the European Union and Canada require DRLs on all new vehicles, the inclusion of DRLs in the U.S. is considered a beneficiary safety measure and is not mandatory.

When are Headlights Required at Night?

A general rule of thumb across all 50 states is that headlights must be turned on a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise. Essentially, whenever the sun is not shining, you need your headlights on. In Arizona, you’re also required to use your headlights during inclement weather, like when it’s snowing or icy. Failure to do so is dangerous driving behavior and can result in a hefty fine or worse—a car accident.

Similarly, the majority of states require high beams to be dimmed whenever an oncoming vehicle is within 500 feet or when following within 200 to 300 feet of another vehicle. Though it’s not the law in all 50 states, taking care not to momentarily blind an approaching vehicle with your high beams is common courtesy while driving.

Headlight Laws By State

Each state has its own unique set of headlight laws that govern when and how you should use them. To be sure you’re compliant with your state’s laws, check out this list of headlight laws for all 50 states.

Alabama Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when windshield wipers are in use or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead.

Alaskan Laws for Headlight Use

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead or when speed exceeds 45 mph on designated highways. Hazard lights may only be used when your car is disabled.

Arizona Headlight Laws

Arizona state law requires headlights when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead or whenever there is snow or ice. High beams should not be used in fog or inclement weather. Hazards may only be used if your vehicle is stopped on the roadway or shoulder.

Arkansas High Beam Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when windshield wipers are in use or visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. High beams cannot be used in inclement weather conditions, though fog lights and low beams are encouraged. Hazard lights should only be used to signal caution for other drivers.

California Headlight and Hazard Laws

Laws for headlight use and hazard lights in California are a bit different. Headlights are required when driving through mountain roads, when windshield wipers are in use, or if visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. Hazard lights are permitted to signal caution to other drivers or for a funeral procession.

Cars driving on a road at night

Colorado High Beam Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. High beams should not be used in fog, though fog lights and low beams are recommended.
Connecticut Headlight Specifications

Headlights must be mounted between 22 inches and 54 inches from the ground and be white or amber in color. Headlights are required during inclement weather or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead.

Delaware Laws for Headlight Use

Headlamps must be mounted between 22 inches and 54 inches from the ground and be white in color. Headlights are required when wipers are in use or when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only allowed to signal caution to other drivers.

District of Columbia Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when wipers are in use or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. High beams are not permitted on city streets and should only be used on country roads with no street lights.

Florida Low Beam and High Beam Laws

Headlights are required during inclement weather conditions. Low beams are most effective when traveling up to 25 mph, while high beams are expected while traveling above 25 mph. Hazards may only be used when your vehicle is stopped on the shoulder or disabled on the roadway.

Georgia Laws for High Beam and Headlight Use

Georgia state law requires headlights during inclement weather conditions or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. High beams are only permitted on rural roads. They are not permitted when visibility is less than 200 feet ahead or when driving in fog, rain, snow, or smoke. In these cases, it’s best to use low beams or fog lights.

Hawaii Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead or during inclement weather conditions. Hazard lights are forbidden to use while moving.

Idaho Headlight and Hazard Light Laws

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only permitted to indicate a traffic hazard.

Illinois Laws for Headlights

Illinois requires headlights when windshield wipers are in use. The state also recommends the use of headlamps during fog, in addition to fog lights. Hazards should only be used to alert other drivers to a disabled or parked vehicle.

Indiana Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only permitted to indicate a disabled vehicle or an emergency.

Iowa Headlight Use Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only permissible when alerting other drivers to a disabled or parked vehicle.

Kansas Hazard and Headlight Use

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead, when windshield wipers are in use, or when driving through fog or smoke. Hazard lights may only be used to indicate a parked or disabled vehicle.

Kentucky Headlight Laws

Kentucky state law mandates that headlights must only be white or amber in color and are required whenever visibility is low. Hazard lights are prohibited unless they’re used to warn drivers about upcoming dangerous driving conditions.

Louisiana Laws for Headlights and Hazard Lights

Headlights are required when wipers are in use and when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only permitted to indicate a disabled vehicle along the road.

Maine Laws for Headlights

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead or if wipers are in use. Hazard lights are only permitted to indicate a driving hazard.

outdoor view of car wipers clean windshield when driving in rain

Maryland Headlight Laws

Maryland requires headlights when wipers are in use or visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. Hazard lights may only be used in emergency situations.

Massachusetts Mandatory Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead, if windshield wipers are turned on, or when driving through a tunnel. Hazard lights are required if the vehicle is disabled.

Michigan Headlight Use Laws

Headlight use laws in Michigan require the use of headlamps in inclement weather conditions or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights are only permitted to indicate a driver is approaching dangerous driving conditions.

Minnesota Laws for Hazard and Headlight Use

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead, or when conditions such as snow, rain, sleet, or fog are present. High beams should be used whenever possible but you must dim them when driving behind a commercial vehicle at night. Hazard lights are permitted to warn other motorists of a funeral procession or to indicate if your vehicle has become disabled while driving.

Mississippi Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights may only be used to indicate a disabled vehicle pulled to the side of the road.

Missouri Mandatory Headlight Laws

Missouri requires headlights when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead, if windshield wipers are in use, or if fog is present.

Montana Headlight Laws

Headlights are required during inclement weather conditions or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights may only be used to indicate a driver is approaching dangerous driving conditions.

Nebraska Laws for Headlight Use

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights must be used when a vehicle is parked on the freeway.

Nevada Laws for High Beam Lights

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead or when inclement weather creates insufficient light. You must also use your headlights if an official traffic control device, such as a sign or light, directs it. Hazard lights may only be used to indicate a disabled vehicle.

New Hampshire Headlight Laws

New Hampshire requires drivers to use headlights during inclement weather conditions or when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead.

New Jersey Headlight Laws for Weather Conditions

Headlights are required whenever windshield wipers are in use, if adverse weather conditions are present, or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead.

New Mexico Mandatory Headlight Laws

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. Hazard lights should only be used if your vehicle is disabled on the highway.

Car broken down, out of fuel in the snow storm

New York Laws for Headlight Use

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead, if inclement weather is present, or when windshield wipers are in use.

North Carolina Headlight Laws

Drivers are required to use headlights in North Carolina when windshield wipers are in use or when visibility is less than 400 feet ahead.

North Dakota Headlight Laws

Headlights are required during inclement weather conditions, including fog, or when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead.

Ohio Headlight and Hazard Light Laws

Headlamps are required when windshield wipers are in use or if visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. Hazard lights may only be used to indicate a driver is approaching

dangerous driving conditions.

Oklahoma Headlight Laws for Adverse Weather

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead and during inclement weather conditions, including fog, sleet, and hail. Hazard lights are permissible

when alerting other drivers to dangerous driving conditions or during an emergency.

Oregon Headlight Laws

In Oregon, headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead.

Pennsylvania Hazard and Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when windshield wipers are in use or when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. You must also turn on your headlights when driving through construction zones. Hazard lights must be turned on if a vehicle is disabled or is traveling less than 25 mph outside of residential or business districts.

Rhode Island Laws for Headlight Use

Headlights are required when wipers are in use and visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. High beams are not permitted in adverse weather conditions, including rain, snow, sleet, and fog.

South Carolina Laws for Headlight Use

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 200 feet ahead or whenever wipers are in use.

South Dakota Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 200 feet ahead. High beams are required to be dimmed when you pass or overtake a vehicle from behind or when an oncoming vehicle approaches.

Tennessee Emergency Hazard and Headlight Laws

Headlights are required when wipers are in use, when visibility is less than 200 feet ahead, or if adverse conditions, such as fog or smoke, create insufficient light. Hazard lights are only permitted in the case of an emergency.

Texas Headlight and High Beam Laws

Texas requires drivers to use headlights when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. High beams may not be used on lighted roads or while driving through heavy rain, sleet, snow, fog, or dust.

Utah Laws for Mandatory Headlight Use

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead or if adverse weather conditions, such as dust, fog, or heavy rain, create insufficient light.

Vehicle driving on curved road in heavy fog

Vermont Headlight Laws and High Beam Restrictions

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead or during inclement weather conditions. High beams are not allowed on roads with street lights, and you should not use them while driving through fog.

Virginia Laws for Hazard and Headlight Use

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead and during adverse weather, such as fog or sleet. You cannot use your high beams when driving through cities or towns unless the road you’re driving has no street lights in place. Hazard lights should be used if you’re traveling less than 30 mph or to indicate dangerous driving conditions.

Washington Headlight Laws for Visibility

Washington requires headlights when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead. High beams should not be used in heavy rain, snow, or fog. Hazard lights should only be used if your vehicle is disabled on the highway.

West Virginia Headlight Laws

Headlamps are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead or during inclement weather, such as snow, sleet, rain, and fog. High beams are not allowed on city and town streets unless the road has no lighting. Hazard lights are only permissible when a vehicle is disabled or during an emergency.

Wisconsin High Beam Light Laws

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead. You must also turn on your headlights when traveling roads with limited visibility, such as through mountain roads, country roads, or two-lane highways. High beams should not be used during foggy or snowy conditions.

Wyoming Laws for High Beam and Headlight Use

Headlights are required when visibility is less than 1000 feet ahead or during adverse weather conditions that limit available light. High beams should only be used on rural highways or country roads. Hazard lights should be in use if your vehicle is disabled on the highway.

Three young women hitchhiking near their broken car on country road. Smiling female friends gesturing for a lift on rural road with broken down car in background.

So, When Must You Use Headlights?

A half hour after the sun sets, it’s time to turn on your headlights. Be sure to use your headlights all through the night until a half-hour before the sun rises. But if snow or hail starts to fall, you should turn on your headlights then, too. By understanding when your headlights are mandatory—in the state of Arizona or otherwise—you can stay compliant with state law and save yourself from a traffic ticket.