Tag Archives | headlights

Fog factor

Fog and mist can take you by surprise. Make sure you know how to operate your front and rear fog lights and don’t confuse these with your ‘full-beam’ setting.

Your headlights should be dipped at all times and don’t attempt to navigate using the car in front’s tail lights. Instead, follow the ‘two-second rule’ to leave sufficient space between you and the car in front.

If visibility is very limited, wind down your windows at junctions and crossroads to listen out for approaching traffic.

Reasons to shine bright

The more you drive, the more you are likely to notice a number of cars with only one headlight working. This is an offence and dangerous in two ways. Firstly, you can’t see properly in an unlit road with only half the usual light available, and secondly, other road users will have difficulty spotting you and identifying what it is you’re driving, especially in dark and wintery conditions. In a rear mirror, your ‘one eyed monster’ could be mistaken for a motorbike. And at an urban ‘pinch point’, where you are trying to negotiate parked vehicles, it will be difficult to gauge the width of an oncoming car with one headlight not working, increasing the possibility of a low speed scrape. If you are pulled over by the police for a faulty headlight, you are likely to receive a £100 fine and three points on your licence. Defective headlights are not the only issue, lights not functioning at the back of your car also present a hazard. A brake light not working makes a rear-end shunt more likely as the driver behind takes longer to realise that you’re stopping or slowing down. Usually, you don’t know when a light has gone so frequent checking is essential. To do so, switch your headlights on when it’s dark and face your car towards a wall, or if you’re in slow moving traffic study your reflection off the car in front. Alternatively, just walk around your vehicle regularly to make sure all lights are bright and working, and to double-check your rear lights, ask someone to watch as you test them.

Dawn and dusk

These can be tricky times behind the wheel and demand your full attention. The road surface, pedestrians and other vehicles often are shrouded in shadow at these hours, while the sky remains fairly bright. That contrast creates a problem – the light sky prevents drivers’ eyes from adjusting to the darker road and identifying hazards quickly, so increase your following distance and drop back from the car ahead of you. The smart way to stay safe at dusk is to turn your headlights on before it gets dark while the sun is low in the sky. Not only will your headlights provide additional illumination for you, they will make it easier for other drivers to see you. Again, people on foot can be hard to spot at these low-light hours, and because there’s still light in the sky, pedestrians may not realise drivers cannot see them.

Unlit roads

The first rule of driving on roads that have no lighting is never drive at a speed where you would be unable to stop within the distance your headlights show to be clear. Standard headlights provide about 30 metres of visibility when dipped and 100 metres on full beam (the length of a football pitch). On an unlit road you should use full beam, however, the moment you see a vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist approaching you must turn your headlights to dip. If you’re driving on a straight level road and see a vehicle approaching, turn your headlights to dip a second after they are able to see you. This shows them that you have gone on to dip, and may remind them to do the same. You should then slow down, as the distance you can see to be clear will be reduced. If no other traffic is approaching, return to full beam as soon as the vehicle has passed you.

Overtaking another vehicle at night can be hazardous. Remember, your view ahead will be limited with bends and dips cloaked in darkness. These can easily hide other road users. Never takes risks. Be certain that the road ahead is clear. Once you have drawn level with the vehicle you are overtaking switch your headlights to full beam if there are no vehicles ahead of you. If a driver overtakes you, then keep your headlights on full beam until they are level with you. The extra light will help them overtake you safely. Once they pull past you turn your headlights to dip until they are gone.

Flashing headlights

Flashing headlights can have several meanings, for example, communicating to another vehicle that a police speed trap or some other hazard is ahead, allowing a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian to proceed when they don’t have priority, or simply greeting a person you recognise. However, flashing headlights can also be used as a form of aggressive driving and the Highway Code states: ‘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.’

Apart from this advice, the only appropriate situation that calls for you to flash your headlights is to warn another driver of a random hazard in the direction they are travelling. The correct procedure, if you intend on being courteous and letting someone cross or come out of a junction is to slow down (if safe to do so) and allow a large enough gap for them to move into or cross. Do not flash them to proceed. They will use their own initiative to take this opportunity and use the correct observation before proceeding.

Hazard warning lights

You shouldn’t have to use these lights very often, but it’s important to know when you should and to use them correctly. Your hazard warning lights are basically your orange indicator lights both flashing at the same time, indicating a warning to other drivers. The button to turn on your hazards is on your dashboard in the shape of a red triangle that flashes when they’re on.

These lights are generally used in the event of a breakdown. If you feel your car is losing power, put your hazards on to warn other drivers that you may be about to slow down or stop suddenly. If you break down, make sure they’re on to warn other drivers that you pose a potential hazard. Switch them on even if it’s daylight and on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway or motorway.

You may also spot drivers using hazard lights to warn other drivers of a potential hazard ahead. If, for example, traffic suddenly starts to slow down on a motorway, drivers might put their hazards on to warn those behind them to slow down. The car behind them will then do the same, and drivers will know to slow down.

However, putting your hazards on doesn’t give you an excuse to park wherever you want, and a traffic warden will still give you a ticket whether you have them on or off. You might also see people using their hazards to thank drivers behind them. It’s best not to do this, as it can send confusing signals to drivers around 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.