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Ask the Chief: Weather inclement? Turn on actual headlights

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman

"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.

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Q: Can I get a ticket if I only use my "daytime running lights" during daytime inclement weather?

A: Thank you for this question, with the added snow and weather conditions that we have experienced lately, this is an important safety topic to remind everyone to use their "headlights" during inclement weather.

During inclement weather and hours of darkness, your headlights must be visible from a distance of 500 feet, per Minnesota Statute 169.55, Lights on all Vehicles. Headlights are also adjustable and located on the vehicle to maximize visibility and when properly adjusted, should not interfere with on-coming vehicle operator's vision. Tail lights also turn on with the headlights, which during inclement weather is important to also be seen from the rear, to help minimize the rear-end collision.

Daytime running lights do not provide the same coverage as headlights and also will not turn on your taillights, which is a violation of Minnesota Statute 169.48, Vehicle Lighting, being visible from the front or rear for 500 feet.

Vehicle manufacturers also offer "automatic" lighting, which utilizes a sensor to determine when headlights and taillights should turn on.

One word of caution with automatic lights, different manufacturers may have different sensitivity on their automatic lights, so it is possible to be driving during inclement weather and not have your lights on if the sensors determine that lighting is adequate. Check your lights and taillights prior to leaving home to see if they are on during the inclement weather you plan to drive in.

Also, some vehicle manufacturers have started to connect their windshield wiper controls with the headlights, allowing your headlights to come on anytime your wipers are turned on. You can also check with your vehicle dealership to verify the adequacy of your vehicles automatic lighting or wiper control options.

The most important thing to remember during inclement weather is to be seen, if in doubt, turn your headlights on. Also, with the added snow, clear the snow from in front of your headlights and also from the top of your vehicle hood and roof.

We have seen snow on vehicle roofs start to thaw, then refreeze and become ice projectiles, flying off the vehicle going down the road, and in some instances striking the following vehicle and causing the windshield to break. Be a responsible vehicle operator, for the safety of yourself and others utilizing our roadways.


1. Minnesota State Statute 169.48, Vehicle Lighting. Located online at:

2. Minnesota State Statute 169.55, Lights on All Vehicles. Located online at: