OK, let me give you the facts. First, my dad's 2005 Toyota Camry has very low low beams. You simply cannot see with the low beams in all situations.

The night in question I was driving my dad's car and all of a sudden I saw the flashing lights of a police car going in the opposite direction. I thought "OK, they must be going to some type of emergency", so I started to slow down and get over a lane.

Then I noticed the police car turn around with the lights still blaring, so I got all the way over to get out of the way of the emergency vehicle.  Well, I noticed the police car was right behind me now and had sirens on and was not trying to go around me.

So of course I pulled over.  The officer approached the car and said to me, "Sir, you were not speeding or doing anything wrong, but the reason I stopped you is you did not dim your high beams when I turned on my emergency lights."

I told the officer OK, I wasn't aware that your emergency lights were for me to dim my high beams, and I turned the high beams off right there and told the officer sorry and thank you and proceeded to drive off.

Then the officer asked me for my ID and that is when everything went sour.

What happened next is really not the issue.  What I am wondering is, did the officer have probable cause to pull me over in the first place? Who turns on the emergency lights while going the other direction as a way to tell me to turn off my high beams? I have never seen this happen before as always 100 % of the time in my experience the proper way to "signal" a driver to dim their high beams is to flash your high beams at them.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but I would think no one would know that the officer was flashing their emergency lights at you to dim your head lamps. As I said, I thought they were in pursuit or going to an emergency.

Any information on this matter will be greatly appreciated. I just feel like the officer was out of line using this tactic as probable cause to pull me over for not dimming my headlamps.

I found this doing some research of my own:

headlights alone are not probable cause for a DPS officer to pull a driver over. With DPS, we can't stop you just for your lights

  • 76
    What I did read: "Hey. My vehicle is unsafe to drive with the low headlights, and instead of stopping driving it at night or repairing it, I chose to risk blinding other drivers! How does a PO dare to correct me?"
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 11:09
  • 48
    "I turned the hi beams off right there and told the officer sorry and thank you and proceeded to drive off. ... Then the officer asked me for my ID" - wait. So you drove off while the officer was still talking to you? I think I understand why things went south.
    – abligh
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 15:04
  • 26
    Just get these lights fixed. It’s fine to ask about the law, but you can get yourself and others killed.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 6:15
  • 23
    The entitlement is dripping off this question. Stop making excuses for putting people in danger. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 15:53
  • 15
    On top of the excellent answers all stating that you were in the wrong, this car is not roadworthy. You could be given a ticket for that alone, or as well as not dimming your "brights". The first Toyotas with LED headlights malfunctioned routinely and were subject to a recall to fix them. I think that started with 2006, but if that is the issue, you can probably still get the fix for free as it is safety-related. Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 6:52

5 Answers 5


depending on the Jurisdiction, you actually were in violation of law!

In it is a misdemeanor to drive with the high beams on in such a fashion that it blinds or dazzles other road traffic, such as traffic from the front. It is also a traffic violation to drive with front lights that don't properly illuminate the street - such as a broken one.

In the worst case, improper illumination voids the validity of the safety certificate (TÜV) and thus you may not drive the car at all on public streets until you have repaired the defect. Not having a valid TÜV can mean you are also not insured!

In the US: YES, a stop is most likely legal

In the , Terry v Ohio is the governing case. It prescribes that, to initiate contact with a car and detain it on the street curb, reasonable suspicion is enough. What could be reasonable suspicion for the police?

In the case presented, 'The high beams are on constantly to hide non-functioning/sufficient normal light' would be the very first thing that comes to my mind, so there very likely is reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop. Ot of course 'The high beams are suitable to dazzle me for a split second, and thus the driver endangered traffic'. Endangering traffic can actually be a felony in some cases. Or just 'They shone their brights into my eyes and violated the High Beam statute' - which is actually the most likely case.

As a result, while a broken headlight is not reasonable suspicion to search a car, them and high beams might qualify to make a stop reasonable, especially if at first just a verbal warning not to dazzle oncoming drivers was intended by police. Only if the local law is worded in a peculiarity, that might invalidate a stop.

And you might be in violation of law here too!

High Beams can be a traffic violation within 500 feet of oncoming traffic and 300 when trailing another car, if they are not

so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.

Under Florida Law, it is also a noncriminal traffic infraction to drive with the high lights on in such a way that it blinds traffic within 500 feet of them oncoming and 300 if you are behind them. Again, the test is that the beams are only ok if they are

so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.

Here comes a possible source for your quote: New Jersey has a similar high beams law, but also a recent case. The judgment from the New Jersey Surpreme Court is only valid in New Jersey. According to it a high beam violation has to be witnessed by the officer themselves to justify a "terry stop".

If you dazzle a moving police cruiser they may stop you. If you dazzle the moving car in front of them, they may stop you. But if you beam your high beams at a stopped car or no car at all, then the police can't stop you.

HELD:The trial court and Appellate Division properly concluded that the motor-vehicle stop violated the Federal and State Constitutions. The language of the high-beam statute, N.J.S.A.39:3-60, is unambiguous; drivers are required to dim their high beams only when approaching an oncoming vehicle. Neither a car parked on a perpendicular street nor an on-foot police officer count as an oncoming vehicle. The judgment of the Appellate Division upholding the trial court s suppression of the evidence is affirmed.

Had the officer, in that case, operated the car while being on the same road, the stop would have been constitutional. But he was on foot in a crossing street.

Wait, actually the quote stems from Texas. However, it has nothing to do with high beams but additional lights such as "Angel Eyes". Texas too has a High Beam Statute, which just like other states, bans blinding oncoming traffic:

(c) A person who operates a vehicle on a roadway or shoulder shall select a distribution of light or composite beam that is aimed and emits light sufficient to reveal a person or vehicle at a safe distance ahead of the vehicle, except that:

(1) an operator approaching an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet shall select:

(B) a distribution aimed so that no part of the high-intensity portion of the lamp projects into the eyes of an approaching vehicle operator;  and

Even in Texas, blinding the police cruiser would thus be enough to stop the car, at least for a verbal warning and lecture.

Common courtesy

While it might not be against the law to dazzle someone everywhere, it actually does impact the other drivers: there have been crashes induced by traffic running high beams and blinding oncoming traffic, which then ran off the road or into other cars. In some countries, if they catch you for causing a crash that way, you are in for negligence.

As a result, it actually is common courtesy in Europe to dim off your high beams when you notice oncoming traffic, and, if you don't run high beams yourself but notice high beams oncoming to flash them up for a brief moment so you get noticed.

  • 22
    It is common courtesy in America as well. Along with the briefly flashing your own high beams at another driver to signal them when their high beams are troublesome. Likewise, if you notice someone who forgot their lights, common courtesy is to briefly turn your own lights off to signal that.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 16:08
  • 2
    Your “in the worst case” in Germany forgets that your insurance may become invalid. Your insurance still has to pay to damaged third parties, but will try to recover the money from you, and won’t pay your own damage, if you were at fault.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 6:13
  • @gnasher729: I don't follow the logic. If you are not at fault, shouldn't the other party pay? I big reason to have insurance is precisely to have coverage when you are at fault. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 8:14
  • 4
    @MartinArgerami it's a result of the german car insurance system. My point was though, that a car with voided TÜV is not deemed roadworthy, and driving it is a separate crime.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 8:16
  • 1
    While it may be "common courtesy" in America to do so, @Telastyn, it seems that many drivers aren't all that courteous and/or have no idea whatsoever that their high-beams are blinding or what it means when I flash my high beams at them. I am, however, glad to see that there are at least 18 other people (up vote count as of now) who understand this common courtesy. I know many vehicles now have "automatic" high beam dipping, but it never happens soon enough. When I drive my inlaw's car, I'm always reaching to turn them off long before the computer decides it's necessary.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 17:58

In Texas, there is actually precedent specifically stating that failure to dim lights is cause to pull you over. From State v. McCray, 986 S.W.2d 259 (1998) (emphasis mine):

On November 15, 1997, McCray failed to dim the bright lights on his automobile as he passed a Longview police officer. The police officer flashed his bright lights, and McCray still failed to dim his lights. The police officer stopped McCray. During the detention, the police officer smelled a strong odor of alcohol on McCray's breath. The officer administered field sobriety tests to McCray and then arrested him for driving while intoxicated.

An officer may lawfully stop and detain a person for a traffic violation. McVickers v. State, 874 S.W.2d 662, 664 (Tex. Crim.App.1993). The failure to dim the headlights of an automobile to oncoming traffic is a violation of Section 547.333 of the Texas Transportation Code.5 TEX. TRANSP. CODE ANN. § 547.333 (Vernon Pamph.1999). Courts have held that the failure to dim one's headlights to oncoming traffic, standing alone, justifies the stop and detention of a motorist. Gutierrez v. State, 422 S.W.2d 467, 468-69 (Tex.Crim.App.1968). Once a police officer makes a bona fide stop or arrest for a traffic offense, he may make an additional arrest for any other offense unexpectedly discovered while investigating or questioning the motorist. Hernandez v. State, 867 S.W.2d 900, 907 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 1993, no pet.).

I think this case is as on-point as you're going to find.


In the UK, driving with full beam headlights left on (especially while facing oncoming traffic) would be more than enough to justify a police stop, since the driver is breaching the Highway Code.

"Rule 114:
“[You] must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders”.

Note that this is a "must" instruction, which means that it carries the weight of a specific law, in this case The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989

27. No person shall use, or cause or permit to be used, [a headlamp] ... in a manner [that is] ...used so as to cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other persons using the road.


If a police car was to "pop" its siren at you, a good first step would be to immediately check your dashboard to ensure that you've not accidentally got an indicator on, left headlight lights on full-beam or accidentally triggered your hazard lights.

  • 1
    "while facing oncoming traffic": or traffic ahead of you driving in the same direction, as you may dazzle drivers via their rear-view mirror. And indeed, as you say, the highway code just refers to other "road users" without qualification. Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 10:08

: You may be stopped by the police and fined on the spot for using high beams where low beams are required. (I wish the police did this more often.)

This goes without any relation to the policemen or other drivers signaling you one way or another that you should switch to low.

Conditions when you are required to switch to low:

  • oncoming car at 150m or less
  • oncoming car switching to low beams
  • you are behind a car at 50m or less
  • in a tunnel
  • if the road is artificially lit
  • while driving during the day if the vehicle doesn't have DRL

Driving a car that is not safe to drive given the road conditions (including at night with substandard or broken lights) is subject to a separate penalty and also a perfectly valid reason for the police to stop the car.

Whenever an interaction with the police (no matter if you drive a car or not) results in a document:

  • issuing a fine on the spot
  • writing a report for a heavier issue so the penalty or other actions to be decided by higher ups
  • or just logging your name and vehicle number in the logbook (if no issues worth any other actions are found)

... you are required to present a government-issued ID.


Trish's answer is excellent, but, from a practical aspect, it matters what happens after you showed your ID - The officer hasn't written up the notes at that point.

Driving with headlights on high could, if nothing was found, be noted as "Asked driver to dim headlights and reminded him of dangers to other road users".

If, say, you were driving on a licence that was suspended/invalid, or drugs or alchohol were found in the car, the high headlights could easily end up as "driving erratically" or something similar, that gives a good reason to search the vehicle, and supports the later charge.

Not completely legal, but extremely, extremely hard to argue without a recording of some sort. Strongly advise you to get a copy of the report the officer filed, read through it carefully, and then make a decision on how to proceed.

  • 2
    In what jurisdiction would such a search not be completely legal? In the US, if you're driving with drugs or alcohol in plain sight or on a suspended license, they could absolutely impound your vehicle. And Trish's answer explains why the stop itself would also be legal.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 16:55
  • 3
    @RyanM I think my answer was aimed at the question saying "what happened then isn't really the issue" after explaining the stop circumstances - I'd argue it is important to know what charges OP is actually trying to argue against, and that we're missing a chunk of information. If OP is arguing the stop was illegal, as you say, Trish's answer explains that it was legal. If the "what happened next" was that police found a bag of weed in the car, there may be grounds for questioning the subsequent search. But, like, not particularly simple to fight grounds.
    – lupe
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 7:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .