Rules of the Road: Do headlights have to be on when wipers are on?


Question: I was told there is a law that if your windshield wipers are on, your headlights need to be on. Is that true?

Answer: No.

However, according to RCW 46.37.020, headlights are required "at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead."

With our wonderful fall, winter, and spring weather with gray, cloudy skies, heavy mist, fog, or the occasional downpour, it isn't a bad habit to get in to. Studies have shown that having your lights on will make you more visible at any time and can help with crash avoidance.

Q: Do I have to pull over for an emergency vehicle coming in the opposite direction on a two-lane road that has a dedicated turn lane separating the lanes of travel? Also do I have to pull over on the freeway or just move to the slow lane to let them pass?

A: The law that covers this is: RCW 46.61.210, Operation of vehicles on approach of emergency vehicles. "(1) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.190, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer."

When you pull over and stop on the two-lane road, remember to not block any driveways or intersections as you don't know where the emergency vehicle needs to go.


Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to

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