1st November 2010

Car Headlights – When To Use and When not To Use

Do you know when you should be using your car headlights and the rules for usage and best practice?

Multiple headlights

Photo by Swamibu

Read our guide on headlights, which forms the third part of our winter driving series.

Headlights help you to see and be seen by others and must be used when visibility is seriously reduced.

They need to be checked regularly and kept clean or they will be less effective.

Key tips for headlight usage:

  • At night or during the day with poor visibility

Use the main beam on unlit roads as this enables you to see the greatest distance, unless you are following another vehicle or meeting oncoming traffic.  In these cases, dip your lights to avoid dazzling other road users.  Keep headlights dipped in built up areas.

  • In fog

Don’t use the main beam headlights in fog as the fog will reflect the light back and could dazzle you.  Use dipped headlights instead, along with fog lights.  These will be seen from a greater distance than sidelights.

  • In heavy rain or snow

Poor weather conditions can drastically reduce your visibility, so use headlights to make your presence clear to other roads users.

When driving, avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights as this can cause disorientation; if an oncoming vehicle leaves its main beam on, don’t retaliate by leaving yours on.

Bright headlight at night

Photo by frozenchipmunk

Headlights on a left-hand bend need to be dipped earlier as they will cut across the vision of anyone coming towards you.

Remember that extra weight at the rear of the vehicle could raise the angle of the headlight beam and dazzle other road users.  In many modern vehicles you can adjust this.

Switch off headlights when parked or they can confuse and dazzle other road users.

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