Assemblyman pushes ‘wipers on, lights on’ bill |

Assemblyman pushes ‘wipers on, lights on’ bill

William Ferchland
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune file A California law could go into effect next year which would require headlights to be used during storms.

One California assemblyman believes he has a bright idea in a bill that would require motorists to turn on their headlights during snowstorms and other poor weather conditions.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Joseph Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would require motorists to flip on their headlights if windshield wipers are in use for rain, mist, snow, fog or other precipitation, as well as in conditions that make it difficult to spot a car or person on the highway at 1,000 feet.

The punishment for a driver failing to turn on headlamps would be a minimum fine of $25.

The “wipers on, lights on” bill, known formally as AB 1854, was passed by the Assembly in May on a 63-16 vote and is now in the Senate for its third reading.

If it passes the necessary hurdles, the bill could become law by July 1, 2005, a bill analysis stated.

Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, was one of the 16 no votes. Spokesman Brian O’Neel said the bill represents Democrats’ attempts to “nanny” the lives of Californians.

“The goal is admirable but people are old enough to make these decisions themselves,” he said.

O’Neel said AB 1854 would make it difficult for drivers to identify 1,000 feet and gives the government too much oversight.

“Why do the Democrats think there is such a huge common sense deficit that we need these bills?” he said.

California Highway Patrol Spokesman Tom Marshall had no comment.

“We do not take positions on pending legislation,” he said.

South Shore resident John Macdonald thinks it’s a good idea.

“I plow snow during the winter and it would be very helpful,” he said.

Macdonald, who plows mostly in Nevada but does work in California, said he hasn’t hit anyone in 25 years but knows people who have.

“You can’t see everything all the time,” he said.

The proposal was initiated by two constituents who, with 229 other people, participated in Simitian’s “It Oughta be a Law” contest. Other winning entries included a police officer wanting to ban a cough suppressant in over-the-counter medicines that children use to get high and a call to investigate high gas prices.

Simitian said the “wipers on, lights on” bill is logical, safe and cost-free.

“When we looked around the country, we found that 28 other states have already enacted similar laws,” he said. “It’s time for California to join them.”

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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