Knowing When and How to Use Your High Beams

Have you ever been driving at night and been honked at because your headlights were too bright?  You might be wondering,”Is it ever okay to use my high beams?”

When you should

Here’s a good general rule of thumb: if there are no other drivers around (or very few), it’s dark, and you’re in an urban area, you can use your high beams. Accidents are more likely to happen at night, especially when you take into account that “90% of a drivers reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night.” Therefore, you should use your high beams so you can see potential hazards, such as wildlife, and helpful information, such as signage. You should also use your high beams when driving in hazardous weather such as rain or hail.

When you shouldn’t

Although you shouldn’t be afraid to use them, you should know when it’s appropriate to dim your high beams. For example, if a car is coming towards you from the other direction or you are directly behind another vehicle, dim your high beams both as a courtesy and as a safety precaution. While high beams create better visibility for you, they create worse visibility for other drivers. It’s the same effect as standing on a stage in the spotlight: the audience can see you but you can’t see them. If you’re unsure whether or not to use your high beams, try driving without for a mile or two. There’s no need to constantly toggle back and forth if your regular headlights are providing plenty of light.

If you’re on the receiving end of a blinding encounter, flicker your high beams so they know their beams are too bright. Don’t look at the headlights of the oncoming car, and divert your eyes to the edge of the road on your side. This will help you stay in your lane and help your eyes maintain relatively the same dilation. It’s dangerous to drive when you’re “seeing spots!”

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