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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

Is it Illegal to Drive with Your Brights On?

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Many drivers who are usually on the road at night agree that driving in the dark is extremely dangerous. That is especially true if you are in areas with no streetlights or few other vehicles on the road.

If you drive in a dark area, you will find it hard to see what is around you or ahead of you. For such reason, you may end up flicking on your high beam lights (brights) so that a bit of light is shed on your surroundings or another vehicle.

Many drivers use brighter vehicle lights for safety purposes. However, these high beams or brights can also present safety hazards, especially for oncoming drivers. As you probably know, high beams are brighter compared to regular headlights or parking lights. They temporarily blind other drivers due to visibility issues, particularly if they have experienced overwhelming darkness before encountering your car with its high beams (brights) on.

Now, you might wonder if it is illegal for you to drive with your high beams based on the headlight laws. If you want to know the answer, keep reading!

Can I drive with my high beams on?

Can I Drive with My High Beams On?

It is illegal if you flash or use high beam headlights within 500 feet (0.15 km) of the oncoming vehicle (oncoming traffic). It is also unlawful if you dim your lights for cyclists or pedestrians. In the case that oncoming drivers refuse to dim their headlights, you have to keep your eyes on the right edge of the road ahead. When you are behind other cars, ensure not to use high beams.

State Statutes

According to the law in New Jersey, on high beams, a driver behind the wheel must dim the high beams or brights if the oncoming vehicle (oncoming traffic) approaches their way. This law initially protects the driver, but sometimes a police officer can initiate the traffic stop, similarly to driving with interior lights on.

On the other hand, the supreme court has recently stated that police officers cannot use this statute to pull over drivers and search their vehicles unless they found evidence for high beam usage violations.

According to the California vehicle code, vehicles should have both low beams and high beams working correctly. The California vehicle code also states that a driver also needs to use the high beams correctly so that drivers in oncoming traffic are not blinded by the bright light causing a visibility issue.

Is it Against the Law to Drive Around with Your Brights On?

When you are driving late at night, the road is hazardous, and with inclement weather like heavy rain, fog, or snow, it’s no surprise if you turn on your high beam headlight. It enables you to see potential obstacles that may lead to an accident if not illuminated. It also helps you feel more secure and confident in your surroundings while navigating the road. It acts as a safety feature that allows drivers to operate their cars more responsibly.

Beware that every state has its own rules regulating the use of high beams (brights). While the exact distance varies from state to state, a driver is required to lower the beams when they are within 500 feet (0.15 km) of the oncoming driver (approaching oncoming traffic).

Once you approach a car moving in the same direction, ensure to dim the lights or use low beams (low beam lights) within 350 feet (0.11 kilometers). In most cases, it is applicable when approaching other significant objects or people. On the other hand, you have to remind other drivers to dim their high beams or use low beams (low beam lights) by flicking your high beam headlights on and off.

While it is not against the law if you drive around with your high beams on as long as you follow the required distance and proper dimming of light or using low beams (low beam lights), improper high beam headlight usage comes with penalties. These penalties vary from state to state; however, the fine often ranges from $35 to $75, increasing for every subsequent offense or a more severe violation.

Is it Illegal to Have Your Brights on All the Time?

If you are driving in a dark area, seeing three times when you turn on high beams is easier. Most states require motorists to flash high beam headlights in excessively dark or remote areas, where it is difficult or impossible for them to see the road.

Meanwhile, an SUV or truck driver and other motorists should use low beams in the fog instead of high beams because they might be reflected on them. As a result, their ability to see is obscured. In other words, you do not need to turn on the high beams all the time. Essentially, it’s okay to use if the road is dangerous and you are in a hazardous driving environment with heavy rain, fog, snow, or an oncoming vehicle. Additionally, it is better if your car is equipped with quality fog lights.

Are bright lights illegal?

Are Bright Lights Illegal?

Bright lights are not illegal according to traffic law or accident law. Motorists navigating dark areas are advised to use their high beams to ensure their safety. In most cases, the vehicle’s high beams are located near the grill in the front of the car’s center.

There are certain times you should be using your high beams. Turn on your high beams if you know that there are no oncoming vehicles or fog. You always have to use them in rural areas and outside cities as long as no other vehicles are around. Then, be sure to dim the high beams or use low beams once you approach another car from behind or if you see oncoming cars.

What is Burned Out Headlight All About?

In most states in the country, driving with high beams because one or a few of your bright headlights or headlamps have burned out makes you break two laws or even an injury law if it leads to an accident. Beware that it is NOT legal to the driver with a burned-out headlight. Plus, using your high beams is also NOT a legal alternative. So, do not assume that it is safe to use them to see the road. That is because you cannot still see the road since only one headlight functions.


The National Safety Council reports that traffic death rates are more significant at night than during daytime by three times. That is why you need to be extra careful if you have to navigate the road at night. Plus, you only have to use your high beams if necessary, particularly when oncoming vehicles. That way, you will not blind the oncoming driver.

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