Rainy days will be a little brighter now, thanks to those friendly folks in the State Capitol.
Beginning Tuesday, New York State law requires motorists to turn on their headlights whenever their windshield wipers are working because of "snow, sleet, rain, hail or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions."
The new law heads a host of regulations initiated by Albany in 1990, imposing a few more requirements for the privilege of being a citizen of the Empire State. Many, such as a bill modifying definitions of both the fox and the Pacific salmon "for purposes of regulation under the environmental conservation law," won't have much effect on most New Yorkers.
But others, such as the new law giving new meaning to the term "light rain," will have major effects on the way New Yorkers live. Current law already requires drivers to have headlamps on a half hour after sunset until a half hour before sunrise. It also requires headlights to be illuminated whenever visibility is not clear at least 1,000 feet ahead.
But now motorists will be required to switch them on whenever precipitation hits, as an "added margin of safety."
"Even when headlights don't help you see, they make your vehicle more visible to other highway users," said state Motor Vehicles Commissioner Patricia Adduci.
Failure to comply with the new law could result in a fine of up to $100.
Many other new laws taking effect next week will also influence lives.
For example, children under 12 are now required to wear a life jacket on any moving vessel under 26 feet (unless safely occupying a cabin). The new law stems from the fact that nearly all drowning victims do not wear life jackets, said Nelson Potter, director of the Bureau of Marine and Recreational Vehicles for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
"Particularly if the water is cold or you swallow some when you hit, your chances of surviving are not very good at all," he said. Potter said the hope is that the new law will work in the same way as the seat belt law, which took effect a few years ago.
"If you start kids out an early age, it may be a way to have some new attitudes about safety devices," he said.
Another law that could have widespread implications deals with the most common surgery in women -- the hysterectomy. A new law requires that physicians give hysterectomy candidates a booklet outlining the effects of removing the uterus, and alternatives to it.
Peter Slocum, chief spokesman for the state Health Department, said the law stems from concerns that the operation may be unnecessary in many cases.
"The idea is to write a booklet to explain what the benefits and risks are, to explain the options and alternatives, and to encourage women to talk about these with their physicians," Slocum said.
Parks and Recreation also successfully sought new regulations regarding snowmobiling responsibilities, according to Potter. As of Tuesday, snowmobile operators will be subject to the same criminal laws as a motor vehicle operator, especially regarding drunken driving.
"We had a bad accident on a highway a few years ago where a guy who had been drinking ran down some people," Potter said. "Now a snowmobile is the same thing as a car in terms of assault and vehicular homicide."
While not too many in Western New York will be concerned with new regulations regarding winter flounder fishing, they could be interested in the capsule version of several other new laws also set to take effect Tuesday. They include:
Lead-acid batteries must be disposed into a recycling system; retailers and wholesalers must accept batteries for disposal.
The use of certain ingredients in marine toilet deodorizers is restricted.
Waste transporter permits are required for transporters of waste tires.
Certain insurance carriers must cover the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.