Tag Archives | car headlights

Eye of the driver

Driving at night is a skill that needs to be learnt. As a learner, you’re not required to have lessons in driving at night, but for safety’s sake take some when it’s dark. One of the biggest night-time hazards is dazzle from on-coming headlights. Although the Highway Code says, you ‘must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders,’ you will notice that some drivers ignore this rule and keep their lights on full beam when they should be dipped. For new drivers, this can be disorientating especially on busy unlit roads. To avoid being dazzled, never look directly at oncoming lights, instead focus your gaze slightly to the left-hand side or painted edge line of the road to stay on course. Try to anticipate when oncoming headlights may reduce your vision and be ready to slow down. You can also be dazzled from behind from light reflected in your interior mirror. To avoid this most cars now have an anti-dazzle setting on the mirror which you can switch to. Remember, your break lights can also dazzle the car behind you so apply your handbrake and don’t keep your foot on the brake pedal if you’re waiting at a junction or queuing in traffic, unless you’re in fog.

Headlight caution

If you are caught flashing your car’s headlights to warn other motorists about a mobile speed trap or upcoming camera you could face a large fine. Some drivers may think they’re doing you a good turn, but according to rule 110 of the Highway Code: ‘Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.’ By flashing a warning, you could also be breaking the law according to the Police Act of 1996, by obstructing an officer in the course of their duties. Motorists caught breaking this law can be fined up to £1,000. According to research by Confused.com around one in six drivers in the UK are unsure this is an offence, don’t be one of them.

Time to light up

As the typical modern car can run its headlights without depleting the battery, why the reluctance to light up? If visibility deteriorates for any reason – not just darkness, but familiar grey drizzle – you shouldn’t hesitate to put your dipped headlights on. A good rule of thumb is to make a point of turning on your headlights whenever you need to use your windscreen wipers.

You may feel you can see well enough, so why bother? But what you can see is not the whole story: you should aim to see and be seen. Other road users may not have eyesight as good as yours. And in gloomy conditions, you need to look particularly carefully in your mirrors before changing lanes. It may be that the driver who hasn’t ‘lit up’ is attempting to overtake you.

Beware the single headlight

Having a headlight out is dangerous. Not only can you not see properly in an unlit road, but a defective light means that other road users will have difficulty spotting your vehicle properly or knowing what it is. In the rear mirror, the ‘one-eyed monster’ might be mistaken for a motorbike. A single headlight also makes it difficult to gauge the width of the oncoming car and increases the possibility of a ‘scrape’ or could result in a misjudged overtake, especially if the offside (right) headlight is not working.

A defective rear light raises different problems. A brake light not working will make a rear end shunt more likely as the driving following takes longer to realise you are stopping.

It’s also an offence to drive with defective lighting yet checking your bulbs only takes a moment. In slow moving traffic you can see if you have both headlights working by studying your reflection off the car in front. And if when you park you are by a window use your mirrors to check that the brake light and red tail lights are working. If in doubt have somebody watch as you test them.