Tips to use your car lights to stay safe and legal

Lights might not seem like a big deal when it comes to maintaining your vehicle, but there can be no doubt that these flashing bulbs are critical to abide by the law and daily safe operation. Legally, it’s required that vehicle lights function correctly, in most settings. You’d be surprised to know how much goes into fog lights, brake lights, headlights, and some common courtesies.

Know The Lights

When using lights, drivers need to know each light serves a combined purpose to make the vehicle safer. In essence, it’s much safer to use the right light for the proper condition. Often times we think that putting more light into poor visibility will solve our problem. In reality, what it takes is putting the right type of light on the situation to afford you the best opportunity for safe vehicle operation.

Full beam headlights. The brightest type of headlight on standard vehicles, full beam headlights are angled higher than dipped headlights. This is for the apparent purpose of more road visibility. They are also known in many circles as “high beams.” Full beam headlights shine at an angle to illuminate the road about twice as far as low beams. Plain and simple, keeping full beams on all the time is not safe for other drivers.

  • Go - Use full beam lights on long stretches of empty road. When you get the first glance of an oncoming vehicle, switch back to low beams.
  • No Go - Avoid using full beam headlights in the daytime, even if you have trouble with visibility. It’s best to use fog lights or regular headlights.
  • No Go - If you lose one low beam or dipped headlight, DO NOT drive with full beam instead. The risk of blinding other drivers is much greater.
  • No Go - Do not use full beams on corners and hill. Anyone just around the corner or over the hillcrest is likely to get dazzled.
  • No Go - When passing a vehicle from behind, do not use full beams until you have come to equal length and begin to pass the car before switching over.
  • No Go - In low visibility conditions, like fog, do not use

Headlights. Typically, we might call low beams or refer to them as dipped headlights; these lights range in many different brightness levels and even colors. These lights serve as the main light on motor vehicles, and the beam is set at a lower angle position, to enable oncoming drivers the ability to see.

  • Go - Even if your headlights are not automatically turned on as Daytime Running Lights (DRL), it’s best practice to use your headlights in the daytime.
  • Go - Driving at night, always opt for using your headlights over your full beam headlights unless the conditions warrant the use of a high beam light for visibility.
  • Go - Use your headlights when visibility is reduced, especially in conditions like fog, heavy rain, or snow.
  • Go - When passing or overtaking, stay on your headlights until you pass the vehicle, then go ahead and switch to your full beam headlights.
  • Go - Check your headlight bulbs every month, at a minimum. If one stops working, you want to get this bulb replaced immediately. However, most in the industry might say to change the pair.
  • No Go - Don’t get caught with only one headlight working, this is just bad news and could result in much more than a verbal warning.

Fog Lights. Since Fog is just a cloud that is ground level, it can make driving safely a pretty big deal. With fog in the name, fog lights are made especially for situations where you find yourself having to drive through areas of limited visibility. Fog lights serve as supplementary lights and provide an enhancement of the main headlights. Let’s cover some Go and No Go criteria for fog lights.

  • Go - Use fog lights while driving in inclement weather conditions. This may include but not be limited to: fog, heavy rain, and dust storms.
  • No Go - When there is no fog, AKA clear weather, you should not be using your fog lights. While many places, both US and Globally, allow the use of fog lights during regular operation, a great many have laws in place against it. It’s best to know your Country or State’s laws regarding the use of fog lights.

Brake Lights. Designed to light up as soon as the brake pedal is depressed, brake lights are critical to any vehicle’s safe operation. They give a distinguishable warning to those behind for your change in speed. Maybe the most important light that you should ensure is working, your brake lights can save your life and the lives of those around you.

  • Go - Clean your brake lights and check them regularly. A good rule of thumb is to check all your lights monthly. Do so by having a friend stop by and tell you if your brake lights are good or not.
  • Go - If you see one brake light going out, it’s best practice to change both of them. Do this right away.
  • No Go - Don’t be the one to get caught with a brake light out. It is very dangerous to drive without brake lights and officers take this violation seriously and rightfully so. The safety of everyone becomes in jeopardy when lights are not being appropriately used on motorways.

We must know the basics of how lights work, at a minimum. This ensures that everyone is driving safely with other people’s welfare top of mind. From not dazzling others with full beam headlights to providing your brake lights are in good working condition, remember to inform others when you see unsafe driving practices. Remind friends and family on the importance of using lights the right way so that we aren’t dazzling other drivers at night or using the wrong lights in inclement weather. Always use your lights the right way and be consistent in checking they are in good working order.