Headlights Are for Being Seen as Much as Seeing

By Wayne Smolda, CEO and Founder

Knowing when to use your headlights is as obvious as the difference between night and day, right. Not necessarily.

Headlights really have two purposes. One is to see where you’re going. The other is so every other person sharing the road – other vehicles and pedestrians – knows where you are. So other than at night, when you should you turn on your headlights?

The short answer is any time somebody might have trouble seeing your vehicle. To make the decision a non-issue, some manufacturers equip their vehicles with daytime running lights that are always on. But if that’s not the way your vehicle works, here are some guidelines to help you make your own decisions:

Twilight hours. The half-hour before dawn and after sundown are the most difficult times for drivers to see details and judge distances. Your headlights are a good antidote.

In the rain. Many states require you to turn your headlights on any time your windshield wipers are working. Whatever the law is where you live, it’s harder to see in the rain. Best to turn the headlights on when the skies darken enough without a drop falling.

In fog. Fog lights can really help, but if you don’t have them, use your headlight low beams. High beams will make your presence easier to detect, but make it harder for you to see the road ahead.

In traffic jams. Here the advantage is in protection from the rear. Headlights on means the tail lights are on, too, and that can help the driver behind you be alert to how close he or she is to you. And if you’re approaching a jam ahead, a great idea is to switch on your four-way flashers to signal that you’re slowing down a lot.

In the brightest sunshine. This may seem nonsensical, but here’s the reason: Bright sunlight can cause blinding reflections in drivers’ eyes, from other cars and reflections off their dashboards back onto their windshield glass. Headlights can help cut through that glare so that others can see you.