The Legislature has amended M.G.L. c. 85, a statue entitled, “Regulations and By-Laws Relative to Ways and Bridges.” The amendment states in pertinent part that:
…headlights and taillights shall be turned on by the vehicle operator… when the vehicle’s windshield wipers are needed…
Law effective April 7, 2015 defines a surchargeable violation
The Governor signed the bill into law on January 7, 2015. The bill did not contain any emergency preamble that would have made it effective immediately, so the headlight requirement will not take effect until 90 days after the Governor’s signature or on April 7, 2015.
When I first saw this amendment I had thought that it was not worth a post. However, since I first learned about the amendment I noticed that on three separate occasions when it was raining, I had my windshield wipers working but had not turned on my headlights as the law will require. I wondered how many other drivers might not know that a police officer can stop them, check their license, registration, inspect, or in some cases, search their vehicle, before issuing a citation for not having their headlights on when they needed their windshield wipers on to drive safely.
A violation of the statute does only carry a nominal fine. However, the Safe Driver Insurance Plan includes the amended statute, M.G.L. c. 85, § 15, in its list of minor surchargeable traffic law violations. So it is worth noting that a citation for violating this statute that results in a record for a civil infraction could have financial consequences to your insureds.
Copy of law and a prepared paragraph on the law for your insureds
No one likes to be stopped for a traffic check and no one especially likes to have to pay or contest a civil infraction citation. With that said, you may want to keep your insureds up to date on quirky laws that can get them a traffic citation or a surchargeable violation on their driving record. Agency Checklists has prepared a short notice about the law that you can add to your newsletters, blog or client updates.
You are free to republish the announcement below or any part of this article on your website, blog, or for informing your insureds or clients as long as you have signed up on our mail list.
Possible announcement for informing insureds
Heads up! A new law effective April 7, 2015, requires drivers to turn on their headlights whenever conditions require the use of windshield wipers. The law only allows a minimal fine for a violation, but admitting responsibility and paying the fine puts a “minor surchargeable traffic violation” on your driving record. In some circumstances, that can affect your auto insurance rates.
Remember. Windshield wipers on? Lights on!
The amended law follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
Section 15 of chapter 85 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:— 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; provided further, that this section shall not apply to a vehicle which is designed to be propelled by hand; and provided further, that a vehicle carrying hay or straw for the purpose of transporting persons on a hayride shall display only electrically operated lights which shall be 2 flashing amber lights to the front and 2 flashing red lights to the rear, each of which shall be at least 6 inches in diameter and mounted 6 feet from the ground.
Approved, January 7, 2015.