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As rain returns to Bay Area, time to review headlight-wiper law

Friday, December 07, 2007

By Michael Cabanatuan, Chronicle Staff Writer

With the return of rain to the Bay Area, drivers should remember to flip on their headlights whenever it’s coming down hard enough to turn on their windshield wipers.

After all, it’s the law. A subsection of the California Vehicle Code, amended in 2004, requires drivers to turn on their lights anytime their wipers are “in continuous use because of rain, mist, snow, fog or moisture.”

But the law doesn’t seem to get much attention from motorists - drivers with their lights off are as common as puddles when it rains - nor, apparently, from the California Highway Patrol.

According to CHP records, officers issued just 36 citations statewide for violations of the new law between July 2005, when enforcement of the law began, and September. Of those tickets, 27 were written to motorists in Bay Area counties.

That’s not enough for Mary Lou Lyon, a retired high school teacher who lives in Cupertino. She wants to see more attention paid to the law.

“I think it needs more publicity,” she said. “I talk to (drivers who don’t turn their lights on in the rain) and they drive down the street but they don’t hear me. I flip my lights at them but they don’t know why.”

Lyon’s strong opinions about the topic led to the law, which she and another constituent suggested to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, in his annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest, in which constituents suggest laws. A majority of the state’s legislators and the governor agreed with Lyon and passed the bill in 2004.

Full story on San Francisco Chronicle website