Shedding Light on Vehicle ‘Bright’ Laws in Michigan

High beam lights, better known as brights, are an important safety feature in every car. When driving in the dark on a remote or poorly lit road, activating your brights can increase your visibility by up to three times. But while brights make navigating the road safer for you, they can actually have a reverse effect on other drivers when used improperly, causing blurred vision and increasing their risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Some motorists are confused or unaware about the law concerning high beam lights. So, let’s take a few moments to cast a light on it, shall we?

In most states, including Michigan, you must dim your brights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle. The exact distance varies from state to state.

According to the Michigan Vehicle Code: “Whenever the driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light or composite beam so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.”

The law in Michigan also mandates that drivers use lights in certain scenarios.

“The Michigan Vehicle Code requires head lamps to emit a white light, with "high-beams" of intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead, and low-beams of intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 100 feet ahead. Since smoked headlamp covers change the color of light, and/or decrease their intensity below the requirements, they should not be used when headlamps are required to be on. However, smoked headlamp covers may be used when headlamps are not on, and not required.”

These rules are in place to protect other drivers on the road, as well as yourself. Obeying the law will help ensure that other drivers aren’t subjected to sudden bouts of blurred vision when operating a dangerous motor vehicle at a high rate of speed.

The penalties associated with improper usage of brights vary from state to state. In Michigan, improper use of lights/failure to dim is a civil infraction that carries a 2-point penalty.

Oddly enough, there are no laws on the books concerning flashing your brights at other drivers. According to a police sergeant in a 2011 story from MLive, the legality of flashing your brights comes down to specific facts.

Like many laws, what this really comes down to is common sense and having care for others. When you’re driving in the dark and there’s nobody on the road, use your brights. When you see a car approaching on the other side of the road, temporarily turn them off until the vehicle passes. It’s that simple!

By Goodwin & Scieszka, Michigan
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Scott Goodwin has over 27 years of experience of battling personal injury court cases for victims of car accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice, and more. He has been honored as a Super Lawyer for seven years in a row and is currently the President Elect of the Michigan Association for Justice.

Copyright Goodwin & Scieszka

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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