Some cars have running lights (which are on whenever the engine is running). Some states have laws the require headlights be on when wipers are being used. Do running lights meet that requirement?

  • Yes, except that is the lights aren't actually on then having such lights does not constitute having "lighted headlamps". – user6726 Oct 2 '16 at 0:35
  • It appears at least 18 states have such laws, and they may differ as to whether running lights satisfy them. Please choose a specific state to ask about. Otherwise you are asking for 18 separate answers which I think is unreasonable. – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 '16 at 14:10
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    One thing to note is that on most cars, if the running lights are on but the real headlights are off, then the taillights are off. The wiper laws might require that taillights also be on whenever the wipers are used. Or there might be a law to the effect of "whenever headlights are on, taillights must also be on" which would suggest that running lights are not headlights. – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 '16 at 14:13
  • @NateEldredge Massachusetts - sure, I could see that. – Enigma Oct 2 '16 at 14:14
  • @Enigma: Thanks. I added the appropriate tag; in future you can do that yourself by editing. – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 '16 at 14:23

No, they don't.

Mass. General Law 85 Section 15:

A vehicle, whether stationary or in motion, on a public way, shall have attached to it headlights and taillights which shall be turned on by the vehicle operator and so displayed as to be visible from the front and rear during the period of 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise; provided, however, that such headlights and taillights shall be turned on by the vehicle operator at all other times when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, visibility is reduced such that persons or vehicles on the roadway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet or when the vehicle's windshield wipers are needed [...]

On all cars I know of, having running lights on does not turn on the taillights, so using running lights would not comply with this law.

This point is also emphasized in this MassDOT press release, which, while it is not law, does give some indication of how the government intends the law to be interpreted:

Relying on daytime running lights for these conditions is not sufficient under the law.

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  • So is there any point at all to those running lights? – Enigma Oct 2 '16 at 14:31
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    @Enigma: Running lights aren't required by law, nor do they help you comply with any law that I know of. So from a strictly legal perspective there is no point. However, from a practical point of view, they may increase safety; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daytime_running_lamp#Safety_performance and references therein. – Nate Eldredge Oct 2 '16 at 14:34

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