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Ask a Trooper: Bright Headlights

Question: I have a concern with the increasingly number of people at night that refuse to dim their high beams to low beam when they have clearly seen that I have dimmed mine. I am a night driver and I am seeing this more and more since the headlights on these cars and pickups appear to be getting brighter all the time. Do these people realize that they are blinding other drivers so bad to the point they could be hit head on? At times I can`t even see the center or fog lines. I believe a majority of these people are doing this to be a prankster which could be a fatal prank. Is there a law against this practice?

Answer: We get comments and complaints concerning this issue frequently. I believe it is time well spent to discuss. Some of the bright headlights you are seeing are newer lights and even though they seem to be too bright, they are legal. Headlights have to be aimed properly too, as not to blind oncoming traffic. Having a load in your trunk or back of your pick-up truck will affect the aim of the headlights too. Some drivers drive faster than what their headlights can illuminate ahead so they drive with their bright headlights on especially like in curves and over hills.

The law (M.S.S. 169.61) shows us that headlights have to be dimmed at least 1000 feet ahead when meeting another vehicle and before getting closer than 200 feet when coming up behind another vehicle. There is no mention of the roadway having to be a two lane road, so it would also apply to a divided highway.

As a matter of defensive driving, we teach that when you meet a vehicle with its bright headlights on, slow down (because meeting a vehicle with bright lights on is a hazard), move over to the right more in your lane, and look downward and away toward the fog line to the right until the vehicle passes by. Never give someone else the “bright lights” just because they have theirs on when you are meeting them, especially within 1000 feet as you could blind them too and raise your risk of being involved in a crash. Keep in mind that because of the brightness of the newer brighter lights that are coming out on vehicles, that you may want to consider dimming a lot sooner than the law requirement.

If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers MN State Patrol P.O. Box 644 Brainerd, MN 56401 or email questions to with Ask A Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.