MANKATO — Minnesota would become the first state in the nation to require drivers to turn on their lights — night or day, rain or shine — under legislation sponsored by Rep. Kathy Brynaert of Mankato.
The bill, which would make it a petty misdemeanor to drive without lights, aims to reduce crashes by increasing the visibility of vehicles.
“It’s just one of those simple no-brainer sort of things,” said Brynaert, a four-term Democrat.
Brynaert sponsored the bill at the request of 88-year-old Skyline resident George Sugden.
“If that bill was passed, it would be a lifesaver,” said Sugden, a retired banker and part-time Mankato police officer.
No other states have a 24/7 requirement that vehicle lights be on, but lights must be used even in the daytime in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, according to a Minnesota Department of Transportation study. Across the European Union, any new vehicles sold beginning in 2011 are required to have automatic daytime running lights.
That MnDOT study is the only result so far of repeated efforts by Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest to require the use of vehicle lights at all times. Rest, DFL-New Hope, has been pushing the legislation since 2008 and received another hearing Monday in the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
Lawmakers haven’t been willing to adopt the idea yet, but they agreed in 2009 to require MnDOT to compile research on the impact of daytime light usage in crash rates.
“It did have a positive effect and benefit for safety,” Rest said in summarizing the report, which was completed two years ago.
Daytime running lights, generally low-wattage headlights, reduced crash rates by 5-10 percent in five studies. Three other studies showed crash-rate reductions of 3-4 percent. One study also showed a 12 percent reduction in vehicle collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists.