By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Massachusetts lawmakers are seeking to brighten up the state’s roadways during periods of rain, snow and fog.
Current state law requires headlights to be turned on at night and during dawn and dusk.
The House on Monday passed a bill that would require motorists to also use their headlights when windshield wipers are needed and when visibility is so reduced that “persons or vehicles on the roadway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet.”
AAA of Southern New England traffic safety manager John Paul told the News Service increased headlight usage could make the roads much safer.
“We’re in favor of headlights on all the time,” said Paul, who said studies show a reduction in vehicle collisions in Canada since it required round-the-clock headlight usage. Paul said the legislation, if signed into law, would “help clarify” when headlights are required.
Paul said high beams can blind drivers in the fog but low beams “sweep the road surface” below the fog. He said several states require headlights to be used when windshield wipers are needed.
The National Motorists Association (NMA) opposes daytime running light requirements, but communications director John Bowman said he does not have a strong opinion on measures to require headlights during low-visibility times.
The NMA claims daytime running lights “aggravate other motorists, obscure directional lights, waste fuel,” and “mask” cyclists and pedestrians that don’t have headlights.
Paul said the bill (H 4567) would make cars more visible and “help save lives.”
The legislation was originally filed by Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), and similar bills were filed by Rep. Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford) and Rep. Tim Toomey (D-Cambridge). It has yet to clear the Senate.
“It’s a commonsense bill,” Linsky told the News Service early Monday afternoon.
Linsky said he has filed the legislation in years past and it has gotten further along this year than in prior sessions. He said, “Most people of course have the commonsense to turn on their headlights during rainstorms.”
There are about two weeks left in the 2013-2014 session. On Wednesday, Jan. 7, a new Legislature will be sworn in and members will begin filing bills for the next two-year session.