On wet days such as this one, NCDOT uses the I-40 message boards to remind drivers that North Carolina law requires us to turn on headlights whenever our windshield wipers are on. On my rainy drive to work this morning, about one of every five cars was driving with wipers on -- but headlights OFF.
So here's a reminder, again: It's required by law. It's explained in the DMV Driver Handbook (pdf). Coincidentally, it's a good idea. It helps other drivers see your car, from the front or from the rear, even in a downpour. Even through a cloud of spray from the nearest 18-wheeler.
Those automatic daytime running lights do NOT count. They don't turn on your full-beam headlights. They don't turn on your taillights. So they don't meet the standard of our "wipers on - headlights on" law:
Every vehicle upon a highway within this State shall be equipped with lighted headlamps and rear lamps as required for different classes of vehicles, and subject to exemption with reference to lights on parked vehicles as declared in G.S. 20‑134:
(1) During the period from sunset to sunrise,
(2) When there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible any person on the highway at a distance of 400 feet ahead, or ...
(4) At any other time when windshield wipers are in use as a result of smoke, fog, rain, sleet, or snow, or when inclement weather or environmental factors severely reduce the ability to clearly discern persons and vehicles on the street and highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead, provided, however, the provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to instances when windshield wipers are used intermittently in misting rain, sleet, or snow.
Our legislators were ambivalent about making this the law, so they included the least possible penalty for violators: a $5 fine, no court costs, no insurance points, no anything else.
So even if you're careless enough not to turn on your headlights in the rain, you should nag your kids to make sure they do it.