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1 November, 2010

Full Beam Headlights – Our Guide to Considerate Driving

With winter fast approaching, most drivers will, at some point, drive during the hours of darkness.  When driving at night, your vision is restricted and you cannot see a far as you can in daylight; therefore less information is available to you.

As a result, your vehicle’s headlights are the most important source of information for both you and other road users.  They tell other drivers your movements, so it is important that you use them with care and consideration.

Under normal circumstances, when driving on lit roads, you should use dipped headlights.  However, to enable you to see as far ahead as possible, and better predict the road and traffic conditions on unlit roads, you should normally use main (full) beam.

With this in mind, here’s our helpful guide to using main beam; the fourth blog post in our winter driving series.

Vintage red car

Photo by tibchris

Meeting oncoming traffic

When meeting other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians, you should ‘dip’ your headlights in good time, although not too early, to avoid dazzling them.  It is advisable to check the left hand verge before you dip your headlights to identify any dangers e.g. a pedestrian that you need to be aware of.

Following another vehicle / overtaking

When following another vehicle, you should dip your headlights and allow sufficient gap so that your lights do not dazzle the driver in front.  If you are overtaking another vehicle, move out early with your headlights dipped.  When you are alongside the other vehicle, return your lights to main beam.  If you are being overtaken, you should dip your lights as soon as the overtaking vehicle passes you and keep them dipped until they can be raised again without dazzling the other driver.

On a bend

When driving on left hand bends, you should dip your headlights earlier.  This is because your lights will ‘cut across’ anyone coming towards you.  On right hand bends, this is less likely to happen so you won’t need to dip your headlights quite so soon.

Car headlights on long exposure round a bend

Photo by SlinkyDragon


Any driver can make a mistake.  If an oncoming vehicle dazzles you and your visibility is greatly reduced, look to the left hand verge.  This enables you to keep your course.  However, as you may not be able to see the road ahead, it is advisable to slow down or even stop if necessary.

Main (full) beam provides drivers with improved vision on unlit roads.

However, you should ensure that you are always able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear, or within the range of your headlights.