During driving tests and written exams when getting a driver’s license, drivers learn when it is appropriate to use high-beam headlights. Turning them on at the wrong time is not only rude; it could also be extremely dangerous. Improper high beam use could blind, stun or confuse another driver, resulting in a tragic car accident such as a head-on collision. Learning how and when to properly use your high-beam headlights could save a life.
Why Are High Beams So Dangerous?
Night driving already comes with a higher risk of car accidents than driving during the day. Lower visibility can make it difficult for drivers to see roadway markings and stay safely in their lanes. Darkness can severely limit a driver’s vision, affecting color recognition, depth perception and peripheral sight. Incorrect use of high beams can make night driving even more dangerous. The glare from the high beams on a wet road or a driver’s windshield could make it impossible to see the road, as well as other vehicles, pedestrians or crossing animals.
Blinding another driver with high beams at night could cause a car accident. The other driver may not be able to see the road, or the bright lights may disorient the driver. This could lead to the driver slamming on the brakes, losing control of his or her vehicle, overcorrecting, running off the road or crossing the middle line into oncoming traffic. When a driver has adjusted his or her eyes to the darkness, abrupt high beams can severely limit visibility.
In rain or fog, high beams can also be deadly. High beams will strike the water particles in the air and refract the light back at the driver, making it difficult to see the road ahead. Using your high beams in the rain can also illuminate the raindrops and puddles on the road in front of your vehicle, creating dangerous visibility problems for oncoming drivers. Use your low-beam headlights in bad weather conditions. The low light will illuminate the road beneath the particles of moisture rather than the rain or fog.
Rural vs. Urban Settings
It can be more difficult to see the road and your surroundings on darker rural streets in California. Lack of streetlights can significantly reduce visibility. Use your high beams in rural areas to help you see. Remember, however, that the dark conditions will also make your high beams appear even brighter to other drivers. Be careful to turn your high beams off when approaching other vehicles in rural areas, as well as before hills and curves when other drivers could be on the other side. When going from a well-lit metropolitan road to a dark rural area, reduce your speed until your eyes adjust.
The Rules of Using High Beams
Do your part to prevent nighttime car accidents by learning how to properly use your high-beam headlights. Certain rules and best practices exist for using high-beam lights. Ignoring or breaking these rules could lead to your liability for a resultant car accident. It is your responsibility to drive safely, including only using your high-beam headlights in appropriate circumstances.
- Use your high beams in dark rural areas
- Use high beams in places with animals crossing
- Do not use high beams in rain or fog
- Turn your high beams off at least 500 feet from an oncoming vehicle
- Turn high beams off when approaching a hill or curve
- Do not use high beams if another vehicle is 200 to 300 feet in front of you in the same lane
- Do not retaliate against someone with high beams by turning yours on
- Do not use your high beams to flash or signal another driver
High beams at the wrong time could be detrimental to another driver’s visibility. It could also increase your risk of getting into an accident or altercation with an angry driver. Improper use of high-beam headlights, including putting them on when right behind another driver, can frustrate the drivers around you and lead to issues such as road rage or retaliation. Use your high-beam headlights at the correct times to increase your safety without blinding or infuriating other drivers.