When To Use Your Headlights

  • Use your headlights when it is cloudy, raining, snowing, or foggy.
  • On frosty mornings when other drivers’ windows may be icy or foggy.
  • Any time you have trouble seeing other cars. Other drivers will be having trouble seeing you, too.
  • On small country or mountain roads.
  • It is a good idea to drive with your headlights on, even on sunny days. This will help other drivers see you. Your headlights may help you avoid a head-on crash. Don’t forget to turn them off when you park!
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SEEING CLEARLY As a driver, it is important to adjust to the DRIVING ENVIRONMENT, taking into account the following:

Is it day or night?

What are the road conditions?

Are there any other types of driving distractions?

What are the weather conditions?

If you can’t see 400 feet ahead, it means you can’t drive safely at 55 mph. If you can’t see 210 feet ahead, you can’t drive safely at 35 mph. By the time you saw an object in your path, it would be too late to stop without hitting it. Adjust your driving to the weather. You should slow down in rain or fog. Turn on your lights during the day if it is hard to see. It is always illegal to drive with only your parking lights on.

Fog: The best advice for driving in the fog is DON’T. You should consider postponing your trip until the fog clears or at least carefully planning your route before you drive. If you must drive, then slow down and turn on your low-beam headlights because the light from high beams will reflect back and cause glare. Never drive with just your parking or fog lights. Increase your following distance and be prepared to stop within the space you can see in front of your vehicle. Avoid crossing or passing lanes of traffic unless absolutely necessary.

Listen for traffic you cannot see. Use your wipers and defroster as necessary for best vision. If the fog becomes so thick that you can barely see, pull completely off the road. Look in the rear view mirror for vehicles approaching. Do not continue driving until you can see better. Turn off your lights or someone may see your taillights and drive into you.

Darkness: Be very careful when you drive at night. Go slower because you cannot see as far. Motorcycles are harder to see at night because most have only one taillight. You will have less time to stop if a hazard lies ahead. Make sure you can stop within the distance lighted by your headlights.

The law says you must turn your headlights on 30 minutes after sunset and leave them on until 30 minutes before sunrise. You must turn your lights on any time you can’t see at least 1000 feet ahead. Use your low beam headlights whenever it is raining. Remember, it is always illegal to drive with only your parking lights on.

Use low beams in fog, snow, or heavy rain. Light from high beams will reflect back and cause glare. Remember, it is just as important to BE SEEN by other drivers as it is for YOU to see THEM.

Do not blind other drivers with your high beam headlights. Dim your lights by switching to low beams before you are 500 feet from a vehicle coming toward you. If you are following another vehicle, change to low beams when you get closer than 300 feet. Use your high beams whenever possible as long as it is not illegal (i.e., in open country when other cars are not near or on dark city streets when no other traffic would be affected by your high beams).

CVC section 24400 – Required usage of headlights

Windshield Wipers On = Headlights On – every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, be operated with headlamps whenever weather conditions prevent a driver from clearly discerning a person or other motor vehicle on the highway from a distance of 1000 feet, or when driving in conditions that require windshield wipers to be in continuous use.

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