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PATROL SERVICES DIVISION BRIEFING. AUXILIARY LIGHTS AND THE OREGON MOTOR VEHICLE CODE. Volume 8 – Issue 1 January 25, 2008.

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PATROL SERVICES

DIVISION BRIEFING

AUXILIARY LIGHTS AND THE OREGON MOTOR VEHICLE CODE

Volume 8 – Issue 1

January 25, 2008

Many manufacturers are now equipping their vehicles with an extra pair of lights on the front to assist with visibility in inclement weather. These lights may be called “fog lights” but are also referred to as “auxiliary lights” in ORS 816.060. ORS 816.230 provides that fog lights must be white, amber, or yellow. (There is also a provision for a rear-mounted red fog light.) The rules which specify the standards for mounting, aiming, and adjusting fog lights are found in Oregon Administrative Rules, not in the above mentioned ORS’s.

Fog lights are intended to be used in combination with headlights. Most manufacturers wire them so if they are switched on, they come on when the low-beam headlights are turned on, and go off when switching to high-beams or when turning the headlights off. This has caused many people to assume that auxiliary lights can be used at all times. It is also common to see motorists driving with auxiliary lights on but without headlights. Auxiliary lights are required to have separate switches.

ORS 811.515(1) states that required lighting equipment must be displayed during times of limited visibility. “Limited visibility” includes any time from sunset to sunrise and also whenever persons and vehicles are not clearly discernible on a straight, level, unlighted highway at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead. (ORS 801.325) Headlights are required lighting equipment. Auxiliary lights are never a substitute for headlights.

ORS 811.515(2)(b) also provides that it is illegal to drive with parking lights lighted during periods of limited visibility unless the headlights are also lighted.

ORS 811.515(6)(a) provides that when limited visibility conditions exist, a driver shall not use a distribution of light such that glaring rays are projected into the eyes of an oncoming driver who is within 500 feet. Use of the low-beam headlights complies with this requirement, regardless of the contour of the road. Subsection (b) requires use of the low-beam headlights when following another driver within 350 feet.

ORS 811.515(7) prohibits the use of more than four lights of over 300 candlepower on the front of a vehicle at one time, even if you are the only car on the road. This simply means when low beams are required, you may not substitute those for auxiliary lights only. When an oncoming vehicle approaches within 500 feet, or a motorist comes within 350 feet of the rear of another vehicle, high beams are prohibited, low beams are required, and the auxiliary lights must be turned off.

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AUXILIARY LIGHTS AND THE OREGON MOTOR VEHICLE CODE

Volume 8 – Issue 1 January 25, 2008 (Continued)

Auto manufacturers have not done a good job of designing fog light switches to make this convenient and Oregon Statutes are somewhat confusing in defining the use of auxiliary lights. Further, under (8)(a)(A), during any lighting condition including a bright sunny day, if a motorist has auxiliary lights that are bright and are aimed into your eyes, they are in violation. Auxiliary lights mounted higher than 54 inches may not be lighted when upon a highway.

The implementing statute for the above requirements, as well as all other requirements and prohibitions set out in ORS 811.515, is ORS 811.520, “Unlawful use or fail to use lights.” The violations under 811.520 are Class B traffic violations with the exception of parking light and hazard light violations which are Class D violations.

In summary, when an oncoming vehicle approaches you from in front or from behind during limited visibility conditions and fails to turn off their fog lights, or another motorist blinds you with their auxiliary lights during any lighting conditions, you have PC for a stop. If you choose to write the violation, it would be under ORS 811.520 for “Unlawful Use of Lights.”

Submitted by:

Senior Trooper Douglas Brown

Salem Area Command