When to Use Your Car’s Headlights
Unless your car has automatic daytime-running headlights, you’ve got to decide when to switch your headlights on and off — and when to use the high beams. While seasoned drivers may have an intuitive sense of when to do this, new drivers can sometimes be unsure or forgetful when it comes to their headlights. Here’s a look at when it’s a good idea to turn them on.
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Sunrise and sunset
Some states, including Tennessee and Georgia, have laws that dictate when headlights should be in use. They’re required to be switched on from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise and whenever inclement weather (like rain, snow, or fog) reduces visibility.
Running your lights in the daytime
While it may seem counterintuitive to run your headlights in the daytime, a Minnesota Department of Transportation study shows that daytime-running lights can slash your odds of a collision by 5-10 percent.
Even if you don’t choose to run your headlights around the clock, there are some situations where a little extra visibility can go a long way towards keeping you safe. The American Automobile Association’s Digest of Motor Laws explains that most states require you to use your headlights whenever your windshield wipers are in use. Even if it’s not required by law, it’s a good idea to run your headlights before sunrise or sunset, and during foggy, wet, or snowy weather. You can also give yourself a little extra visibility by running your headlights on rural roads, mountain passes, and two-lane highways.
Your car’s high beams can help you spot animals, pedestrians, and obstacles in the road when it’s dark out. You should use your high beams on unlit roads, on highways when there’s little to no traffic, and in rural or mountainous areas at night. Just keep in mind that in most states, you’re required to switch off your high beams when you’re within 500 feet of oncoming traffic to avoid blinding the other driver.
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Kimiko Kidd is a native Daytonian. She graduated from Wright State University with degrees in environmental science and sociology. She loves her trusty old Honda Civic, but dreams of owning a 1974 Ford Falcon XB with a custom paint job and a vintage Kawasaki Z1000. In her free time, Kimiko can be found watercolor-painting, baking muffins, collecting rocks, playing old-school Nintendo games, writing her novel, sewing stuffed animals, and cosplaying as her favorite Mad Max characters. See more articles by Kimiko.