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How bright can headlights be?

Question: I often meet vehicles that not only have very bright headlights but appear to have many of them. Is there a law that limits the number of lights a vehicle can have on at one time, or how bright they can be?

Answer: Yes, there is. According to statute 169.63 (b), when a motor vehicle equipped with headlamps, as herein required, is also equipped with any auxiliary lamps, spot lamps or any other lamps on the front thereof projecting a beam of intensity greater than 300-candle power, not more than a total of four of any such lamps on the front of a vehicle shall be lighted at any one time when upon a highway.

In checking, I have learned that if a light is approved by the Federal Code of Regulations for use on cars then it is approved for use in Minnesota. Now the candle power will have to be checked to verify its correct use or not. As a rule of thumb (only Trooper Andy's rule of thumb), I tell people that no more than four light bulbs (facing the front) can be on at one time and that you should count "high beam" lights as four bulbs.

Using that rule of thumb, you should be in compliance with Minnesota statutes. If you need more and brighter lights than that to drive down the road then I believe there is something wrong. Perhaps your speed is way too fast. Believe it or not, when it is dark out we should be driving a little slower. I for one miss the days when there was one speed limit for daytime and another for nighttime. But I am getting to be an old war horse on the Patrol, and that is the way it is.

My guess is that most likely what the problem is here is that the lights are in need of adjusting, something that doesn't appear to be done much lately. I passed on your concerns to the supervisory level of the Patrol district you live in. They can bring your concerns to the Troopers that work the area for appropriate action.

Parents, don't just hand over the keys to your new driver. Please take the time to ride with them and let them gain experience before allowing them to face the dangers of a public road on their own.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws in Minnesota, send your questions to Trooper Andy Schmidt, Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. Or reach me at