Proper use of your car’s high beam headlights

headlights of a car on mountain road in the night

Your car’s headlights help you see while driving at night, but that isn’t all they’re for. The high beam function, for instance, doubles as a way to communicate with other drivers on the road. This is vital in helping others avoid accidents, leading to the need for Easton & Easton accident attorneys. Here’s how to properly use your high beams. 

Headlights settings

Vehicle headlights typically have two settings: low-beams and high-beams. The low-beam mode is a less intense setting that, when used under normal nighttime conditions, provides a view of about 200 to 300 feet ahead. Even though that may seem like a lot, a car traveling at about 60 miles-per-hour would only take 3.4 seconds to cover that distance. 

In comparison, high beams are a more powerful setting that provide visibility 350 to 500 feet ahead. For reference, it takes a vehicle roughly 400 feet to stop at 50 miles-per-hour. The high-beams may provide enough light to cover the distance of one full city block, in comparison to low-beams which provide light for about half a city block.

Then Why Not Always Use High Beams?

Although it may seem like having more light would always be a good thing, there are times when high beams are less effective, and even potentially dangerous. High beams can be the wrong choice in certain weather conditions, such as heavy rain, fog, or snow. During these times, light from the high beams will reflect back and cause glare, making it near impossible to see.

Secondly, your use of high beams causes a blast of light that reduces the visibility of oncoming traffic. If you’ve ever looked into a flashlight in a dark room, the effect is similar. If this has ever happened to you, you know it not only is blinding but painful and discomforting.

When Should You Use Your High-Beams?

If you are driving on a road and there is no other traffic around, it may be helpful to use your high beams for better visibility. This allows you to spot a deer or other dangers ahead that you may not be able to see while using your low-beams. The best time to use the high setting is at higher speeds or highway driving, but only when you are at least 500 feet from any other cars.

Low-Beams are the better choice when driving in high-density traffic, lower speeds, urban streets or suburban neighborhoods. This setting will provide adequate light without distracting other drivers. Remember, in many states it is illegal to use your high-beams within 500 feet of other traffic. So, only use the high-beams when it is absolutely necessary and safe.

Should You Flash Your Lights?

What if another driver is using their high-beams and driving towards you? Most driver instructors recommend that you focus your eyes on the shoulder of the road, rather than looking into the bright lights, until the car passes. Flashing your lights may be misinterpreted as a sign of aggression, making it a good idea to avoid doing so in this situation.

Driving in Fog, Heavy Rain, or Snow

As mentioned, high-beams will reflect light back into your eyes during these conditions, making it impossible to see the road ahead. Instead of using the high setting, properly adjusted fog lamps provide better visibility of the road, without blinding you or oncoming drivers.