How to use headlights is a skill every driver should have mastered by the time they hit the local roads. Mistaken use of headlights can be considered rude at best and downright dangerous. Failing to use headlights the correct way can also present opportunity for collisions.
The best rule with headlights is this – when you can’t see, use them. Headlights are there for visibility. Even if other drivers don’t have theirs on, it doesn’t matter. If you can’t see or if you’re more comfortable driving with more visibility, don’t hesitate to turn them on. Headlights will keep you safe while driving and ensure you can still see in low-light conditions.
Whether you’re driving a car, truck, motorcycle, or some other type of vehicle, here are some situations on when to use headlights:
1. When to Use Low-Beams
Low-beams are the most common setting for your headlights. Low-beams will light up to two hundred feet in front of you. They point towards the ground, in an effort to minimize the light directed towards oncoming traffic.
Low-beams are best used for driving in the city and/or wherever that has enough street lights to illuminate the area in front of you.
2. When to Use High-Beams
High-beams are meant for conditions where your low-beams aren’t enough. High-beams light more of the roadway in front of you. The light is brighter and points in a straighter line.
A driver is able to see further down the road as well as along the sides better. This is great for any highway driving where there’s minimal lighting. The drawback is it can blind oncoming drivers.
3. How to Use High-Beams Safely
High-beams have to be turned on and off throughout a highway drive. As drivers approach, turning your high-beams down to low-beams is the courteous and safe thing to do.
High-beam lights are best used on highways and back-roads, and should never be used in a major city downtown or where there are a lot of pedestrians.
4. Low Visibility At Night
It can be scary having to contend with low visibility at night, even with your best headlights activated. When in doubt, slow down. Pull off or pull to the side of the road, if you have to stop altogether.
It’s common to see this during major snowstorms or blackout conditions where headlights aren’t doing enough.
5. When Low-Beams Are Better
In some instances where one might think high-beams are better, low-beams actually are. Headlights have the goal of giving you just enough light to see where you’re going without inconveniencing those around you. If you have cars moving in the opposite direction or next to you, low-beams are always the better option.
6. Headlights in Daytime
Headlights don’t generally have to be used during the daytime. You may have daytime lights equipped to turn on when activate your vehicle. For a lot of drivers, those are enough.
Unfortunately, sometimes conditions during daytime can still present that make it difficult to see. Furthermore, some jurisdictions in North America require low-beam headlights when driving in daytime hours. Consult with local regulations for further information on what’s required.
7. Why to Use Headlights in Daytime
Yes, we know we just explained how using headlights during daytime wasn’t necessary. Here’s why you may still want to. Even when headlights don’t do anything to aid your visibility, it 100% helps other drivers see you. It adds more light to the road and all-around, it reduces the risk of collisions and accidents.
For these reasons, consider using headlights during daytime even if you’re running to the store for groceries. It’s well worth it.
8. Headlights When Parking
When you’re in a parking lot or rest area, it’s appropriate to use low-beam headlights if you’re moving. If you’re parked, keep your headlights off until you start to move.
If you’re entering a parking lot, turn high-beams you may have on down to low-beams. Low-beam headlights are tolerable on the eyes but anything more is considered discourteous.
9. Other Situations to Use Headlights In
A dark city street, an unfamiliar area that lacks street lighting, or driving through a construction zone are all situations where using headlights can help to prevent collisions, driving over items in the road, and other unfortunate events.
Headlights should be on at all times in areas where a possibility of hitting an animal, cyclist, or pedestrian taking a late-night walk is evident. If you’re using high-beams, be ready to dim them when appropriate.
10. Headlights in Fog, Rain, or Snow
Foggy conditions, rain, and snowfall complicate when to use headlights. High-beams don’t necessarily work as well because the light focuses straight and refracts off the fog, rain, or snow. This creates literally blinding conditions for a driver.
Fortunately, you actually get more visibility using low-beam headlights in fog and snow. As mentioned, low-beams are aimed towards ground. This reduces the amount of light that’s reflected back at you.