Auto Headlights on When Wipers On setting

Discussion in 'Clarity' started by Insighter, Mar 16, 2020.

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  1. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    I'm a new 20 Clarity Touring owner. This is my first thread that will provide information (rather than a question, though I'll have plenty of those, too).

    Although many people don't know (or don't care), it is the law in California and many other states that if you have your windshield wipers on, you must also have your headlights on. Daytime running lights (DRLs) definitely do NOT meet this requirement because DRLs do not turn on your taillights. Your lights are required to be on for visibility, so your rear lights must be on, too. It's a safety issue. (I'll climb off my soapbox for the rest of this post.)

    Luckily, the Clarity (at least the 20 Touring version) has a setting called "Auto Headlights on When Wipers On." If you turn this setting on, whenever you turn on your windshield wipers, your headlights will come on, and you will be in compliance with the law (and safer).

    I wanted to turn this feature on and test it. At first, it seemed it wasn't working. I'd turn on my wipers, and my headlights didn't turn on. I spent about 30 minutes experimenting with it, and I found out that your headlights don't come on instantly when you turn your wipers on. And they don't come on after a set amount of time with your wipers on. Interestingly, they come on after your wipers do five swipes. So, if you turn your wipers on high, they come on in about 10 seconds (there is a slight delay after the fifth swipe). But, if you turn your wipers on the lowest intermittent setting, it takes your lights almost a minute to turn on.

    Another interesting thing I noticed is that after your lights come on like this, they stay on even if you turn your wipers off. I shut off my wipers and waited a few minutes multiple times, and my headlights remained on. Apparently they stay on until you turn your car off.

    I know some of you may think this is an odd thing to be so concerned with, but the law is there for a reason. I knew a kid whose father got killed in the rain in a situation where, if the driver had had his headlights on, the wreck would have likely never occurred. On another level, it's a moving violation and will go against your insurance (just like not having your headlights on at night).
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  3. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Honda didn't want to turn on the headlights and taillights every time you flip the lever up to do a single swipe or every time you wash the windshield. That's why the car waits until it's sure you're actually using the wipers for rain duty before performing its legal obligation.
  4. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Yes, after playing around with it, that's what I figured. Since they apparently remain on once they do come on, that's even more reason that they wouldn't want them to activate immediately. Many cars do not have this feature at all. My Prius Prime doesn't, and it's a hassle. I'd much rather the headlights come on automatically when the wipers are on, so I'm glad the setting is there.
  5. GM vehicles have done it this way as well (after several swipes) for years.
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  6. The 2019 manual says that the headlights will automatically turn off after the wipers have not been used for a few minutes. 2020 could be different.

    Some states require headlights to be on in “adverse conditions” others only in dense fog or when dark.

    I’ve driven in rain for extended periods of time without using the wipers, as the water beads up and clears the windshield quite nicely. I’d be legal, with headlights off, in the wiper states since the the wipers are not in use.

    Someone who has used their wipers several times prior to having their headlights turned on, would be in violation of the law. If this is a concern, simply turn the headlights on manually.
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  8. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    The auto headlights with wipers on is one feature that has never been used on my almost 2 1/2 yr old Clarity because I almost never use the wipers for more than cleaning. I RainXed the glass and use RainX in the WW fluid. (And at the risk of making @insightman think RainX fired me as their spokesperson, I’ll say that any hydrophobic treatment will work.)
    Over 35 to 40 mph, depending on the amount of rain, the droplets coalesce and fly back off the windshield giving as good if not better visibility as the wipers. Plus, at almost 2 1/2 years, my original wipers are still streak free.
    Maybe I’ll test it to see if it’s working on my car.
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  9. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Hi Ken - I've been reading many of your posts as I look around this forum. Thank you for weighing in. I've thought about doing that. The problem is that I'm in Southern California. It can easily be months between significant rainfalls, so I find I don't keep up with the RainX. I have it, though, and have used it, and I think that it may be as good as or better than wipers. The combination of the two is certainly great. Even if you don't use your wipers, though, please do put your lights on when it's raining. I really wish everyone would do that.
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  10. eneka

    eneka Member

    they definitely do turn the headlights back off after a certain of of time the wipers are turn off
  11. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Hi eneka - How do you know that? I waited quite a bit of time, and they never went back off. How long does it take for them to go back off? Thanks!
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  13. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Well, the problem with turning the headlights on manually is, as far as I can tell, that the headlights on this car do not turn off automatically if they are turned on manually, is that correct? On my Prius Prime, they do, but not on this. I've gotten very used to automatic headlights that turn themselves off. The easiest time to forget to turn off manual lights would be when you only have them on due to the rain (especially when that only happens very occasionally).

    You wouldn't be legal in the states that require the headlights to be on when your wipers are on. It might save you from a ticket, but you could easily be held civilly or criminally liable in the event of an accident. Even if you could argue your way out of having to have used your wipers, you would not be able to convince a jury that doing so would relieve you of the duties to turn your headlights on. If an argument could be made that your visibility through your windshield was reduced and somehow contributed to the wreck, you can bet it would be made. I don't know what types of laws there may be requiring windshield wipers to be turned on, but absent specific requirements, it would come down to a reasonable person standard (what a reasonable person would do).

    Most people would not consider it reasonable to not turn on one's windshield wipers in the rain. With RainX or something like that, it could well be reasonable, but that wouldn't save you. You could install some sort of high-powered blower that blows away rain from your windshield. That would also mean you aren't using your wipers, but that absolutely wouldn't relieve you of the duty to turn on your headlights.
  14. KentuckyKen

    KentuckyKen Well-Known Member

    This is exactly why every revolutionary’s manual says the first thing you do in any revolution is shoot all the lawyers. (Insert sarcastic font)

    On a more serious note, I always use lights based on visibility requirements. Better safe than sorry and it doesn’t matter whose at fault since a crunched Clarity often means a totaled Clarity.

    FWIW, Kentucky Statutes say lights must be used 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise AND at any time visibility is “lower than ordinary”. Surprisingly, they doesn’t mention rain or wipers. Of course your state’s laws will vary and should be obeyed and common sense applied at all times.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2020
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  15. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    There is an Automatic option (fiddle with the auto light sensitivity or cover the Light Sensor to force the headlights to be on regardless of the ambient light):

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  16. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Well, as a retired attorney, I would not subscribe to that sentiment!

    While lawsuits are usually pursued more for money than an interest in the public good, lawsuits about safety issues do tend to make our society safer. Lawsuits can go too far sometimes, but they often help keep people and corporations from creating needless risk.

    The 30-minute rule you mention is very common in state laws. It's there because you have to have some standard to hold people to. You need defined parameters like times or conditions (IF wipers THEN headlights) because too many people would otherwise be negligent or reckless (but not necessarily wreckless).

    I agree about visibility. That's what it all comes down to. Some people may think that turning their headlights on in the rain is unnecessary. It's kind of like having your turn signal on in a turn-only lane. It may not seem necessary or advisable, but it is. I say give yourself every advantage when it comes to simple things like this.
  17. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    Landshark had mentioned the option of turning the headlights on manually if you want your lights on in the rain. I responded as I did because I had considered that, but ruled it out because then I might forget to turn my headlights off. The Auto lights feature is great, but that setting only turns on the headlights when it's dark out. The feature that lets you make it so that when the wipers are on the headlights come on solves the problem for me.
  18. I'm intrigued that the threshold value for auto headlamps is adjustable. I'll bet that at the most sensitive, the lights would be on before the rain starts.
    With the LED headlamps there's little reason to be stingy with this setting.
    My Volt had the typical GM auto headlamps and I got so that I could predict when they'd trigger, based on my perception of the light level.
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  19. Danks

    Danks Active Member

    I'm not eneka, but mine definitely turn off automatically after I've turned off the wipers. It does take a while. I'm not sure how long, but I glance at the headlight indicator on the instrument panel and it is off. It does seem to be more than just a few minutes, maybe 5-10.
    Insighter likes this.
  20. [QUOTE="Insighter, post: 95987, member: 22151The 30-minute rule you mention is very common in state laws. It's there because you have to have some standard to hold people to. You need defined parameters like times or conditions (IF wipers THEN headlights) because too many people would otherwise be negligent or reckless.[/QUOTE]

    Yes, if the headlights are turned on manually, they will need to be turned off manually. It’s not really a problem, it’s a choice to turn something on and have it remain on until the operator decides to turn it off. For the forgetful there are bells and buzzers that provide reminders that the lights are on, the car is not in park, the key is in the car, a door is open, etc.

    With the headlights in Auto they will most likely come on when the wipers are activated, which will turn on the taillights as well. The Auto headlight feature will also turn off the headlights and taillights after an uncertain amount of time of wiper inactivity. This could potentially create a situation where a motorist is operating a vehicle with the headlights and taillights off, in what 12 strangers might be persuaded to believe are “adverse conditions”. Oh my!

    Your “If wipers, then headlights” defined parameter defends my position. There is no legal obligation, or duty, to do the “then” if I haven’t done the “if”. I’m sure you are capable of representing either the motorist who was rear ended or the one who did the rear ending.
  21. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    I agree about the manual headlights. The setting on this Honda means I won't need to resort to them in the rain. The warning chime is useful when they need to be used. The reason I don't like that option is that they go off automatically, even in the manual mode, on my other cars, so it is confusing.

    I understand what you are saying about the law. Many people would think your "if/then" argument would carry the day, but I can assure you that you'd be fighting an extremely uphill battle. The undeniable fact is that laws are constantly interpreted as to meaning and intent. Attorneys frequently find themselves in the position of having to explain to clients that the client' interpretations of what a law means are not, in fact, how the laws are interpreted and applied. Were it a ticket, you would go into court and the officer would say that he had his own wipers on, that it was raining, that other cars had their wipers on, and the judge would be uninterested in your argument.

    One thing you can rest assured of is that if it came down to an accident, especially a serious one, you would be in a very unenviable position trying to argue that your windshield treatment did away with the need for wiper usage, and that therefor you also didn't need to turn your headlights on. You might be able to prove that the use of the wipers was unnecessary due to the treatment, but good luck with arguing that that meant you didn't have a legal duty to turn your headlights on. The reasonable person standard would definitely come into play in a situation like that, and your actions would almost certainly be adjudged unreasonable by a jury or judge. I may not be able to convince you this is true, but I know for a fact it is.
  22. Insighter

    Insighter Active Member

    But does more sensitive mean that the sensor is more sensitive to light so that the headlights turn off as soon as there's a bit of light, or the reverse? I looked and couldn't find an answer to that.
  23. Danks

    Danks Active Member

    According to the manual on pg 163, Max sensitivity lights come on when ambient light is bright. Min they come on when dark. I played around with it and mine are on Max. There doesn't seem to really be much of a difference. They will come on a bit earlier as the light gets dark. It would take some pretty dark rain clouds to turn it on.

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