Virginia’s Driving-in-the-Dark Bill Is Dead

by Kerry Dougherty


A bill so boneheaded that even Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t sign it.

I’m talking about HB 5058, which contained a driving-in-the-dark measure that would have prevented police from pulling over motorists tooling about at night without headlights, tail lights or brake lights.

You know, those “add ons” for cars that no one really needs.

This bill was intended to get rid of bogus reasons that law enforcement use to pull over drivers: Doodads hanging from a rear-view mirror, for instance. Outdated inspection stickers. Or vehicles that reek of marijuana.

The bill was styled “Marijuana and certain traffic offenses; issuing citations, etc.” and I suspect Democrats in Richmond became giddy at the mere mention of dope and immediately began pumping their little fists in the air.

For reasons only known to the legislating geniuses who wrote the proposed law, the bill included provisions that included extinguished headlights, tail lights and brake lights as items that wouldn’t warrant a traffic stop.

It wasn’t until Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and people with common sense howled about the bill that the knotheads who wrote it realized they were about to legalize driving around lightless at night.

It’s worth remembering that Democrats in the House of Delegates and the State Senate overwhelmingly voted for HB 5058, while the GOP objected.

Are you wondering if your representative is someone who has no problem with lightless cars at night?

You’re in luck. I have a list.

It’s safe to assume that every “yea” voter either didn’t bother reading the bill before voting on it. Or they believe that headlights, taillights and brake lights are unnecessary.

Which is worse?

As you can see, this was pretty much a party-line vote, with only one Democrat, David Bulova of Fairfax, voting no.

All Republicans voted against the bill.

I phoned Bulova’s office yesterday to ask if his vote was a principled stand against driving in the dark or just a happy accident. I was unable to reach him. Either way, kudos for breaking with the lemmings in your party, Del. Bulova.

Then there’s the State Senate.

Oh look. Party-line votes with zero defections.

May I humbly suggest that we all print a copy of this post and save it for 2021 when we next elect new delegates and some senators?

If your local lawmaker merrily voted yes on this measure, ask him or her why.

Vote accordingly.

This column was republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited


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3 responses to “Virginia’s Driving-in-the-Dark Bill Is Dead

  1. He didn’t veto the bill, right? He’s offered an amendment to allow a cop to pull you if BOTH of your headlights and/or brake lights are out. But if one of each is working (so you could masquerade as a motorcycle) then you may not be stopped. The amendment could be rejected and he could then sign the bill anyway. But I suspect the amendment will be accepted.

    I told you not to speak up until the bill was signed. 🙂 It would have been a truly potent campaign issue if passed, but now they fixed it….a bit. Still a bad bill. Where you and I may notice it is in our insurance rates, which could creep up if accidents increase. Could be our accident if we misjudge that oncoming single headlight and suddenly find the car has drifted into our lane….

    But we all get to play this game again:

  2. I’ll take some claim to the sound mind of Delegate David Bulova on this one. I’m a remote DNA match to his mother, former chair of the Fairfax BoS, Sharon Bulova. Thus, Delegate Bulova and I are distant cousins as well.

    Driving without headlights at night is absolutely dangerous. My grandfather told the story that around 1940 he was driving home from a nearby town when he discovered his front lights didn’t work. Fortunately, a kind soul drove in front of him escorting him and his family home and protected the public.

    But no matter the level of stupidity and callous disregard for public safety, by most Democratic legislators, the Post will endorse everyone of them for reelection next year. Better to have more people killed in car crashes, which most often involve pedestrians than the Woke not continue in office.

  3. As has been reported on this blog previous, the patron of the bill was unaware of its full implications, i.e. its bans on stops included those for driving without headlights on after dark or for non-functioning brake lights. I predicted that the Governor, after being contacted by the patron, would send down a amendment fixing this issue. That is what has happened.

    Therefore, the legislators were not voting on a bill that explicitly, by name, prohibited stopping vehicles without headlights. Of course, they could be criticized for voting on something for which they did not understand the full ramifications. But, Kerry, would rather focus on the more eye-catching headline. (By the way, even if this bill had been enacted as originally passed, cops could have stopped vehicles with in operative headlights or brake lights under the reckless driving statute. But, Kerry chooses to ignore that little detail, as well.)

    This bill will not really stop pretextual stops. If a cop wants to stop someone on some pretext, just to search the car or harass the driver, he can always find a pretext (exceeding the speed limit by 1 or 2 mph, failing to yield, etc.)

    The real significance of this bill is its provision eliminating the “odor” of marijuana as a legal basis for the search of a vehicle. So, if a driver is stopped, legitimately, for speeding, the officer cannot legally search the car on the basis that he smelled marijuana. If he does conduct such a search, anything found as a result cannot be used as evidence.

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