Does Virginia Require Using Headlights in the Rain?

Yes.

Virginia law requires that if it’s raining and windshield wipers need to be used, then headlights must also be illuminated.

Note that there are a couple important exceptions to this rule. First of all, if it’s just misting and windshield wipers only need to be used intermittently, the statute specifically says you don’t have to have your headlights on. However, it makes good common sense to have your headlights on, even in those weather conditions.

The other key issue is that this offense is what we call a secondary offense in Virginia. This means that an officer is not allowed to actually pull you over simply because your headlights are not on in the rain. While it may be frustrating for safe drivers who observe people driving without their headlights on in violation of the law, a law enforcement officer actually can’t do anything about it unless he observes some other violation that the driver is also committing.

Thus, while it’s required to have your headlights on if it’s raining to the extent that you need your windshield wipers, in many cases there’s not anything that a law enforcement officer can do to really enforce the statute.

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Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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