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Ask A Trooper: The rhyme and reason of tickets and headlights

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Question:  Why does the car with the headlight out get pulled over for a fix-it ticket, while cars with the misaligned headlights that shine right in your face and almost blind you get off the hook? Personally, I would rather meet a one headlight car than misaligned.

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Answer:  This is a good topic.   I'm not quite sure why you feel that misaligned headlights are not being enforced, but I can tell you from my experience, members of law enforcement are out enforcing on Minnesota roads. Having a headlight out is an obvious equipment issue. But when it comes to alignment, it may not always be as clear to law enforcement on patrol, and can appear subjective. 

Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.60 says, "Except as hereinafter provided, the headlamps, the auxiliary low-beam lamps, or the auxiliary driving lamps, or combinations thereof on motor vehicles, shall be so arranged that the driver may select at will between distributions of light projected to different elevations, subject to the following requirements and limitations:

(a) There shall be an uppermost distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed and of such intensity as to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead for all conditions of loading.

(b) There shall be a lowermost distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 100 feet ahead; and on a straight, level road under any condition of loading none of the high-intensity portion of the beam shall be directed to strike the eyes of an approaching driver."

M.S.S. 169.61 Composite Beam states, when a motor vehicle is being operated on a highway or shoulder adjacent thereto during the times when lighted lamps on vehicles are required in this chapter, the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle, subject to the following requirements and limitations:

(a) When the driver of a vehicle approaches a vehicle within 1,000 feet, that driver should use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.

(b) When the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 200 feet to the rear, except when engaged in the act of overtaking and passing, that driver should use a distribution of light permissible under this chapter, other than the uppermost distribution of light specified in section 169.60.

Having come into contact with several misaligned headlights, I have found that it is usually a result of the headlight simply needing to be adjusted, which sometimes involves more substantial body work from damage received. A lot of the time, it is an issue of a very heavy load someone is hauling in the rear portion of the vehicle. 

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Jesse Grabow - Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. You can also email jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

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