One of the most important safety features of your vehicle, your headlights ensure that you can see and that other drivers can see you. Effectively using your lights is key to staying safe on the road.
While it's common sense to turn on your lights when it’s dark out, did you know that there are other situations when it can be advantageous to use your lights? Or do you know when to use your high beam lights? How about what lights are best in fog? When are low beam lights most effective? When should you use your lights during daytime hours? Read on to discover not only when to use your lights but when to use your low or high beam lights.
Daytime headlight use
It may feel unnatural to turn on your lights during the day, but there are some conditions that warrant the use of your lights.
Adverse weather - Inclement weather such as snow, rain, fog and sleet can reduce visibility, making it hard to see and be seen. Using your lights during these adverse conditions can keep you and your passengers safe when the weather turns bad. As you drive, keep an eye on the sky for changing weather conditions. In the spring and summer, thunderstorms can quickly roll in, making the sky dark as night. Winter can bring sudden snow squalls and blowing snow that can produce whiteouts and reduce your line of sight.
Mountain & rural roads – Many mountain roads have signs calling for the use of headlights during the day. Because of the narrow lanes, visibility can be reduced which can lead to hazardous driving conditions. Like mountain roads, country roads and rural two-lane highways can be narrow with limited sight distances, so make sure others can see you by using your lights no matter what time of day it is.
After sunrise & before sunset – Visibility can be compromised during the time just after sunrise and just before sunset. Using your headlights (and taillights) during these times can reduce the chance of a collision during this tenuous period.
State laws – Some states such as California and Alabama have daytime headlight use laws. The law mandates that if your windshield wipers are on, your headlights are required to be illuminated. The rationale is that if the weather is adverse enough for your wipers to be working, you should have your lights on for safety. To learn your state’s laws regarding headlight use, check out this handy reference from AAA.
High beam & low beam use
Your vehicle is equipped with low beam and high beam headlights. Knowing when to use each type of light will help you get the best view of the road in a variety of situations.
Low beam – Low beam headlights deliver light in a small area (about 200') while limiting the light directed at the other drivers’ eyes. The short-range light emitted from low beams is ideal for driving in traffic when you don’t want to blind other drivers with your bright high beams.
Driving in fog, rain and heavy snow calls for the use of your low beam lights. The downward directed light is best for cutting through these low-visibility situations. You might think that your high beams would help improve your sight lines, but the light actually gets reflected back to you, causing a glare.
High beam – High beam headlights cast a wide area of bright light (about 350'-400') with no limits on the light directed at other drivers. Best reserved for situations where you are alone on the road, high beam headlights are helpful when traveling on dark roads. The extra light will help you see farther down the road and see more on the sides of the road. This is especially helpful on rural roads where there could be animals lurking.
You can also use your high beams on highways as long there is no other traffic present. Whether you are on a country road or a highway, be sure to switch to your low beam lights when a vehicle approaches or if you come up on a vehicle from behind. The light from high beams can be especially blinding to other drivers, compromising their ability to see.
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