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Is it legal to flash your high beams at drivers with lights off? What California law says

With a number of vehicles now equipped with automatic headlights, drivers may not notice when theirs are off.

Can you flash your high beams to let someone know their lights aren’t on?

Vehicle Code 24409 says if you’re approaching an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, you cannot use your high beams. You also can’t use them within 300 feet to the rear of a vehicle you’re behind.

Legally, you cannot flash your high beams to signal to a motorist that their headlights are off, California Highway Patrol Officer Tom Olsen said.

“We understand people’s intentions: Warning people to turn lights on, change lanes, etc.,” he said.

However, he explained, “Any flashing within that amount of time is illegal.”

When should you use high beams in California?

Progressive Insurance says you can use high beams when you’re on the highway or roads along the countryside because these are often long stretches with less light and traffic.

You should use your headlights when it’s too dark to see from 1,000 feet away, the California Department of Motor Vehicles recommends. But if it’s raining, foggy, snowing, or you’re within the limits of another vehicle, use your low beams.

Foggy conditions are hard to drive in and high beams can make it more difficult.

In the Central Valley, tule fog, which is thick fog caused by moist marine air, light winds and clear skies, is common from November to February.

High beams in the fog create a glare, making it hard to see. If you have fog lights on your car, use them, otherwise stick to low beams.

Can you flash your regular headlights?

There is nothing in California vehicle code that says it’s legal to use your headlights to signal to a motorist that their lights are off, Olsen said.

Technically, if it’s dark, your headlights are supposed to stay on.

However, Olsen said he “would never give a citation” to someone who briefly turned their headlights off and back on to signal someone to turn their lights on.

While the vehicle code is “muddy,” Olsen said, the CHP is not looking to cite drivers who are trying to do the right thing and keep the roads safe.

Can you get a ticket for using your high beams wrong?

According to Shouse California Law Group, if a driver is caught violating Vehicle Code 24409, the fine is around $238.

The driver will also get one point on their state driving record, which can lead to license suspension if the points accumulate.

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