Vehicles are equipped with both high beam and low beam headlights. California Vehicle Code 24409 VC requires drivers to dim their headlights, from high beam to low beam, when approaching and following other vehicles.
Violations of VC 24409 are sometimes referred to as “high beam headlight violations.”
There are four important points to know about Vehicle Code 24409.
- A driver that fails to dim his headlights must pay a fine of $238.00.
- A driver that violates VC 24409 will also receive one point on his California State driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he receives a certain number of points in a specified amount of time (e.g., 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
- Legal defenses are available to those drivers that wish to challenge a high beam headlight violation. It’s in the driver’s best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before raising one.
- Motorists cannot disregard tickets for violating Vehicle Code 24409 VC. If a driver ignores, or even forgets about, a traffic ticket, he could get charged with a new law, failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. Failure to appear may be charged as a misdemeanor.
Our California auto accident attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Vehicle Code 24409 VC – drivers in California must dim high beam lights
- 2. The penalties for a high beam headlight violation
- 3. Legal defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 24409 VC
- 4. A failure to dim ticket and traffic school
- 5. Failure to dim and criminal charges
- 6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 24409 VC
- 7. Failing to dim and effect on a personal injury lawsuit
- 8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 24409 VC
1. Vehicle Code 24409 VC – Drivers in California must dim high beam lights
Vehicles have two types of lights – high beams and low beams. While high beam lights provide more light, they can also distort the vision of other drivers. This distortion can lead to accidents and injuries.
Therefore, California law requires drivers to dim their high beam lights in certain situations.
According to California Code 24409 VC:
Whenever a motor vehicle is being operated during darkness, the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle…1
VC 24409 goes on to provide two situations in which drivers must dim their lights from high beam to low beam. These are:
- Whenever the driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet…2; and,
- Whenever the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 300 feet to the rear…3
A driver that fails to dim his high beam lights in either of these situations is guilty of failing to dim.
2. The penalties for a high beam headlight violation
There are two penalties for violating Vehicle Code 24409. These are that a driver will receive:
- A fine; and,
- Points on the driver’s DMV driving record.
A motorist that fails to dim his high beam lights will receive a ticket for the offense and he must pay a corresponding fine.
The fine for violating California Vehicle Code 24409 VC can cost up to $238.00.4
2.2 Points on the driver’s DMV driving record
Motorists that drive in California and fail to dim their lights will receive one point on their DMV driving record.5 This is unfavorable since points put on a driver’s record are ultimately reported to a driver’s insurance carrier. This typically results in an increase in the motorist’s insurance rates for several years.
A problem also arises when points accumulate on a motorist’s driving record. If a driver in California accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that person a negligent driver. The result is that the DMV can either suspend or revoke that driver’s driving privileges.
Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.
3. Legal defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 24409 VC
A driver that receives a ticket for a high beam headlight violation can challenge the ticket and plead not guilty. If this happens, he must raise a legal defense on his behalf. However, if this is done, it’s best for the driver to consult with an attorney.
3.1 Common defenses to a high beam headlight violation
There are two common defenses for violating Vehicle Code 24409. These are:
- The officer made a mistake (i.e., the driver did in fact dim his lights); and,
- The driver was not within the requisite distance of another vehicle so that he had to dim his lights.
This second defense relates back to Vehicle Code 24409 (a) and (b). As stated above, a driver must dim his lights when: (1) approaching a vehicle within 500 feet; and, (2) when following a vehicle within 300 feet. It’s a defense, therefore, for the driver to show that he was not within the distances of either 500 feet or 300 feet.
3.2 Contact an attorney for help
Drivers can represent themselves when challenging a failure to dim ticket. But, it’s wise for drivers to contact a California attorney for assistance.
There are three main reasons why lawyers are helpful when a driver chooses to challenge a ticket. These include:
- Prosecutors normally give better deals to drivers with lawyers.
- Defense attorneys know how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
- A driver represented by a lawyer does not have to go to court. The motorist’s attorney can go on his behalf.
4. A failure to dim ticket and traffic school
Drivers that receive a ticket for failing to dim their high beam lights do not have to attend traffic school.
However, drivers that violate VC 24409 can voluntarily choose to do so. This is provided they meet three criteria. These are:
- The driver has a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
If a driver chooses to attend traffic school, he still must pay his fine.6 However, the driver typically does not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school.7
5. Failure to dim and criminal charges
The State of California does not file criminal charges against a driver that violates Vehicle Code 24409. This is because it’s not a crime in California if a motorist does not dim his lights.
Violations of Vehicle Code 24409 VC are infractions under California law. As such, violators are not subject to incarceration.
6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 24409 VC
Drivers must not ignore a ticket for failing to dim their high beam lights. Ignoring a ticket will result in two things. These include:
- The driver violates California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
- The driver may receive penalties for violating this law.
6.1 Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC
Upon receiving a traffic ticket in California, a driver is obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time and place (given that he is not represented by an attorney – please see 3.2 above).
If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised in writing, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is a no-show. Further, it is not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.9
It also does not matter whether the driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.10 He violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC just by breaking a promise to:
- Appear in court,
- Appear to pay bail,
- Pay bail in installments,
- Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
- Comply with any condition of the court.11
6.2 Penalties for violating VC 40508
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.12
7. Failing to dim and effect on a personal injury lawsuit?
A driver that violates VC 24409 may cause – or get involved in – an accident with another motorist. If the motorist later files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found “negligent.”
California law defines “negligence” as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of an auto accident, negligent drivers are at fault for the accident. They may also have to pay for any damages caused.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant’s violation of a statute or ordinance
This means a driver would be negligent per se for failing to dim his high beam lights since he would be in violation of Vehicle Code 24409.
Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California’s comparative fault laws.
8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 24409 VC.
There are three laws related to VC 24409. These are:
- California’s law on driving without headlights;
- Driving under the influence in California; and,
- California’s “speeding laws.”
8.1 California’s law on driving without headlights
California Vehicle Code 24250 VC makes it unlawful in California for motorists to drive in the dark without headlights.
The section states:
During darkness, a vehicle shall be equipped with lighted lighting equipment as required for the vehicle by this chapter.13
The question for when exactly a driver must turn on his car’s lights is a question of fact that will depend on all the circumstances in a case.14
California courts, though, have established some general rules that help drivers follow the law. These are:
- Headlights are required during certain times of the day/night – “from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise.”15
- Drivers must use headlights when the visibility is poor, and objects are not clearly seen.16
- There is no directive as to what distance must be lit up in front of a moving vehicle.17
Vehicle Code 24250 applies to drivers of motorcycles as well.18 Thus, motorcycle drivers, as well as drivers of vehicles, must use their headlights “during darkness.”
A driver will receive two penalties for violating Vehicle Code 24250. These are:
- A fine of approximately $230; and,
- One point assessed to the driver’s DMV driving record.
8.2 Driving under the influence in California
A driver in California may fail to dim his lights because he is driving under the influence. In this case, the motorist is charged with both failing to dim and driving under the influence (DUI).
DUI is against the law in California. It’s against the law to:
Legal defenses to a California DUI charge do exist. However, a California DUI lawyer is necessary to raise the right one on a driver’s behalf.
8.3 California’s “speeding laws”
“Speeding laws” refers to California’s laws that impose penalties on drivers for driving too fast. Some examples are:
- The basic speeding law
- Driving over 70 miles per hour
- Speeding in a construction zone
- Excessive speed on a freeway
- Driving over 100 miles per hour
Penalties for violating these laws typically include a fine and points assessed on the motorist’s driving record.
The exact amount of a speeding ticket will depend on the speed at which the driver was driving. The amount will also include a base fine, fees, and penalty assessments.
If a driver exceeds the speed limit, but wasn’t driving more than 100 miles per hour, then the base fine of a ticket will be:
- $35 if faster than the limit by 1 to 15 miles per hour
- $70 if faster than the limit by 16 to 25 miles per hour
- $100 if faster than the limit by 26 miles per hour
For more help…
If you or someone you know has been cited for violating Vehicle Code 24409 VC, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Cited in Colorado? See our article on fighting tickets for failing to dim high beams in Colorado (CRS 42-4-217).
Cited in Nevada? See our article on fighting tickets for failing to dim high beams in Nevada (NRS 484D.215).
- California Vehicle Code 24409 VC.
- California Vehicle Code 24409 (a) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 24409 (b).
- See DMV penalty chart.
- See same.
- See California Courts website.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- California Vehicle Code 24250 VC.
- Donato v. Lopopolo (1937) 20 Cal. App. 2d 409.
- Fouch v. Werner (1929) 99 Cal. App. 557. See also Winn v. Long (1928) 203 Cal. 758.
- Holmes v. Koepsel (1940) 40 Cal. App. 2d 793.
- Sawdey v. Producers’ Milk Co. (1930) 107 Cal. App. 467.
- Pope v. Halpern (1924) 193 Cal. 168.