Kimiko Kidd
No Comments

When to Use Your Car’s Headlights

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page
Car headlight symbols
Photo: The News Wheel

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.

Looking to Buy Your First Car? Shop for vehicles under $15,000

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.

High beams

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.

Get to Know Your Vehicle: What these common dashboard lights mean

Like all vehicle components, headlights require maintenance. Here’s a guide to restoring cloudy headlights, as well as a guide to replacing them.