Drivers head northbound on I-5 through Everett on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Drivers head northbound on I-5 through Everett on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Should Washington require headlights 24 hours a day on highways?

Sen. John Lovick’s bill aims to create “a culture of safety” on state highways. Opponents say it could promote “disproportionate enforcement priorities.”

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers are exploring a bill to require drivers to keep their headlights on 24 hours a day.

The law on the books now requires headlights to stay on a half hour before sunset and a half-hour after sunrise, keeping lights on during dark hours.

Senate Bill 6288, sponsored by Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, would make drivers on state highways have them on at all times. Prior to joining the Legislature, Lovick spent three decades patrolling highways as a state trooper with the Washington State Patrol. Later he served as the Snohomish County sheriff.

Sen. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, spoke on Lovick’s behalf at a public hearing Thursday. She said the change would make cars more visible to pedestrians and cyclists.

It would be a small step, she said, noting there isn’t one magic bullet to make roads safer.

“It’s one change that creates a culture of safety,” she said.

The Washington Defender Association does not support the bill. The requirement would create another opportunity for increased police interaction, Executive Director Christie Hedman said.

“Traffic stops often reflect disproportionate enforcement priorities from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which can lead to greater racial and economic disparities in how they are applied,” she wrote in an email.

A public education campaign would be a better option to increase traffic safety, Hedman argued.

In many other states like California, daytime headlight use is required in rain, snow, fog or other inclement weather. Washington just requires them during daytime hours when visibility is limited.

If this bill passed, Washington would be the first state to adopt a 24-hour headlight law, although motorcyclists are already required to keep headlights on at all times.

Currently, jurisdictions can petition the state Department of Transportation to create a 24-hour headlight zone on its state highways.

Lovick’s bill is one of several measures he’s pushing this year to increase traffic safety across the state. In 2022, there were 698 fatal crashes, according to the state’s traffic safety commission.

On Thursday, his Senate Bill 5841 passed unanimously on the Senate floor. It would require people convicted of driving under the influence to pay child support if the offense resulted in the death or disability of someone’s parent.

Lovick has also led the local push to lower the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration from 0.08% to 0.05%.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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