New Law: Use of Headlights and Taillights When Windshield Wipers Are On

For Immediate Release:

Today, the MassDOT Registry of Motor Vehicles and Highway Divisions, along with the Massachusetts State Police, advised motorists of a new law taking effect on April 7 requiring  the use of headlights and taillights on motor vehicles during inclement weather and when windshield wipers are in use.  The law is intended to increase safety and visibility of vehicles on the Commonwealth’s roadway.

The changes to Mass General Law Chapter 85, Section 15, signed into law in January, require that front and rear motor vehicle lights be activated in all of the following conditions:

  • When windshield wipers are on
  • When low light or weather conditions prevent other vehicles or persons from being seen at 500 feet
  • From ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise

Relying on daytime running lights for these conditions is not sufficient under the law.  A violation of this law is considered a surchargeable minor motor vehicle traffic law violation for insurance purposes.  For more information on the Safe Driver Insurance Plan and insurance surcharge information, please visit the RMV’s Merit Rating Board.

The updated law reads:

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.


Media inquiries may be directed to DPD Media Services. Please do not contact the Emergency Communications Center directly on this matter.