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Ask a Trooper: Tractor lighting rules

September 19, 2014
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: As you're driving down the interstate at night, can you have your brights on? It can be tricky to see without them but I feel like I'm blinding the drivers across the interstate.

A: Driving in low light conditions is an added challenge to the normal everyday drive. The issue is visibility, especially at interstate speeds. Using your high beam headlights increases your sight distance, but at what cost?

The Iowa code does require motorists to dim their high-beam headlights upon approach of another vehicle. The distance to dim is 1000 feet for oncoming traffic, and 400 feet for traffic you are following. This law applies to all roadways, including interstates (321.415).

An interesting sidebar in a related code section (321.384) is when your headlights should be activated. It states

'Every motor vehicle upon a highway within the state, at any time from sunset to sunrise, and at such other times when conditions such as fog, snow, sleet, or rain provide insufficient lighting to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead, shall display lighted headlamps as provided in section 321.415.'

This provision not only requires headlights during nighttime driving, but during periods when fog, snow, sleet or rain may limit your vision to less than 500 feet. This requirement improves your ability to see, but more importantly, it improves other motorist's ability to see you in these conditions. What a great reminder with the early morning fog as of late.

I do have one final thought on the use of headlights and high-beams. It is always wise to consider your speed in relation to visibility, regardless of what the speed limit might be. Just because the speed limit may be 70, that speed may not be safe given the visibility and surface conditions at the time. A good way to judge this is to ask yourself, will I be able to stop within my sight distance if there is a problem on the road ahead? If not, it is time to back off the accelerator.

As always, the Iowa State Patrol reminds you to drive defensively.



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