Driving a vehicle with defective lights is illegal, so it’s important to check them regularly.
Before a journey, especially if you’re driving a new or unfamiliar vehicle, make sure you know where the switches for each set of lights are, and which dashboard symbols show up when the lights are on.
Check regularly that your lights are working: when a bulb goes, you must get it replaced immediately. When lights are only working on one side of a car, it can cause danger for other road users as they may mistake it for a motorbike at night. If you’re on your own and want to check your brake lights, find a parking space in front of a window, press your foot on the brake and use your rear view mirror to see the reflection of the red brake lights in the glass.
Since February 2011 all cars manufactured in the EU have been fitted with DRLs (Daytime Running Lights). DRLs automatically omit light from the front of the vehicle once it starts moving. The white lights increase visibility in the daytime and improve road safety. They should not be relied upon at night-time or during lighting-up hours as they do not emit enough light.
If your vehicle was built before 2011 and doesn’t have DRLs fitted, the RSA recommends that you use dipped headlights in daylight hours.
Full headlights should be used when driving at night, except in the following circumstances:
In the above cases, use dipped headlights. These should also be used at the beginning and end of lighting-up hours – that is, just after sunset and just before sunrise – and during daylight hours if your car isn’t fitted with daytime running lights.
No headlights should be used while a car is parked. Parked cars should only light up with parking lights or side lights.
Fog lights are commonly misused by motorists. As the name suggests, they should only be used in dense fog or falling snow and you must switch them off when visibility improves. It’s an offence to use fog lights in clear conditions as they can dazzle other drivers. The RSA states that you should only use fog lights if your visibility is less than 100 metres – i.e. you can’t see approx. 25 car lengths ahead of you.
Fog lights are best used with dipped headlights. When visibility is significantly reduced, it’s also a good idea to use your foot brake to slow down, so that your brake lights can alert the driver behind you.
There are two main instances when hazard warning lights should be used:
Do not use hazard lights as an excuse for illegal parking.
We’ve all seen the driver that indicates at the last second before making a turn – don’t let that be you! Every time you change the direction of your vehicle, you must signify this with your indicator lights. Use indicators in good time, so that other road users can react – and don’t forget to turn them off after you’ve made your manoeuvre. Also keep in mind that putting on your indicator doesn’t give you the right of way: you must wait until there is a safe gap in traffic to make a turn or a change lanes.
This blog about using car lights is one of a series on safe driving and road use. You can check out our previous post about where (not) to park here.