How to use your high beams properly
Different scenarios may call for use of your high beams. Here’s how to go about it properly.
In our Highway Traffic Act (HTA) it states (Section 168) that every driver should not make use of their high beam headlights when they are within 60 metres of following a vehicle or within 150 metres of an approaching vehicle.
Sounds simple and straight forward. However, I would bet there isn’t a motorist on our roads today that could judge when they are within 60 metres of the car ahead or 150 metres from an approaching vehicle. No one could judge that distance in daylight, never mind at night when it is applicable.
In other words, we all need to use common sense when deciding when to dip our high beams.
When I drive at night, I’ll use my high beams at speeds over 70 km/h. Slower speeds only require the low beam and most new vehicles will not “overdrive” their headlights at these lower speeds. The term “overdrive” in this case refers to the ability of the headlights to illuminate enough road ahead to stop in.
When I approach a vehicle from behind, I’ll dip my high beams when I can make use of the lights of the vehicle in front: in other words, when the vehicle in front is illuminating the road that I am looking toward. I practice keeping my vision high and looking as far up the road as possible, this is usually well before I get within the 60 metres required by law. Keeping your vision high and scanning the whole road makes for safer driving. Do not stare at the tail lights in front of you.
If I have my high beams on when I encounter oncoming traffic, I’ll dip my high beams when I can see two distinct oncoming headlights. This is well over the 150 metres required, but I do not want to blind oncoming traffic.
Here are 10 lighting tips:
1. Most vehicles mount the high beam switch on a stalk on either the left or right side of the steering column. When you hold the steering wheel in the nine and three o’clock position (ideal for safe driving), this allows you to place a finger tip on the high-beam switch. This helps to remind you that you have your high beams on and makes it easy to turn them off at a moments notice. Naturally, you cannot keep your finger on the switch while cornering due to hand movement, but on straight stretches of road this works well.
2. If the oncoming vehicle does not dip their high beams, give them a quick on-off flash to remind them their high beams are still on. If they continue toward you with the high beams on, do not put yours on high beams to “punish” them. This may blind them and cause them to drift into your lane. Simply look toward the right at the edge of the road until they have passed and do not stare at their lights.
3. If the vehicle behind you does not dip their high beams while following you, use your night vision mirror. If their lights are still too bright, turn the rearview mirror up toward the roof so the glare of their lights does not affect your vision. If it is still uncomfortable, pull over in a safe area and let them pass. Do not retaliate by braking or with hand gestures as this may worsen the situation. The driver behind you may be drunk.
4. On hilly roads you can dip your high beam when going up hill. Since your vehicle is pointed upward, all you are doing is lighting up sky and not roadway. This can help when another vehicle comes over the hill unexpectedly catching you with your high beams still on.
5. Watch for oncoming headlights lighting up trees or telephone wires. This can tell you when oncoming traffic is just over the crest of the next hill or around the next corner. It gives you a heads up to dip your high beams before being surprised by oncoming traffic.
6. Upgrade your headlights with better quality bulbs. Both GE and Sylvania make higher output bulbs that are still legal and safe to use. They will light up more roadway at night to increase your safety. When using these better quality bulbs, dip your high beams sooner than when you used the regular style bulbs.
7. Make sure your headlights are properly aligned. Too many vehicles are driving our roads with lights out of alignment. This is dangerous to both you and oncoming traffic.
8. If your vehicle was not equipped from the factory with HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights, do not try to convert your vehicle to this system. They require special lenses and reflectors as designed by the factory engineers.
9. Do not use coloured bulbs in your headlights. These are not permitted under the HTA (see Section 168). It may look cool but it can get you a ticket.
10. Do not use your fog lights on clear nights unless you turn them off for oncoming traffic as you do with your high beams. Too many motorists have no idea when to use fog lights and they will leave them on all the time. This is dangerous and annoying to other drivers. Fog lights have a specific use. They are too be used when the fog is too thick to allow low beams to penetrate the mist. They are not to be used to appear cool or racy.