The Right Way to Use Your High Beams

With fall comes longer nights—i.e., more time when you need to use your headlamps…and your brights. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t know the proper etiquette when using high beams, causing eye discomfort, creating visibility issues and increasing overall risk on the roadways. So, here’s a quick reminder…

When High Beams Are Appropriate (or Not)

First, high beams are intended for use when you need more light than is available from your headlamps and any other lighting source around. You do not need them when city driving. Ever. Keep high beam use for times when you are driving on country roads or long, unlit stretches of highway.

Also, high beams may be of limited use in foggy conditions or when it is snowing or icing. These types of precipitation can reflect the light back to you, actually reducing your visibility.

When to Turn Down High Beams

Driver safety manuals agree that you should turn down your high beams when:

  • You are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle
  • You are 200-300 feet behind another vehicle

Obviously, there’s no way to measure distance conveniently when you’re driving and the distance is between two moving objects. So, stick to this handy reference:

  • For oncoming traffic

If you can see an oncoming car’s lights, they can see yours, and it’s only going to be a matter of seconds before yours are blinding. Turn down your high beams as soon as you see an oncoming vehicle.

  • For traffic traveling the same direction

Since your high beams are likely hitting the rearview mirrors of the car in front of you, you need to turn them down sooner. Turn down your high beams when:

  • At 40 mph or below: There is four seconds’ worth of distance between you and the car in front of you
  • At 50 mph: There is 3 second’s worth of distance between you and the car in front of you
  • At 60 mph: There is 2 seconds’ worth of distance between you and the car in front of you

(You can see the pattern—the higher the speed, the less time/distance before you need to turn down your high beams.)

  • There are five house-lengths or ½ block between you and the car in front of you

One thing to consider—you may forget your high beams are on because they are simply not producing the brightness you expect, and that may be because your headlamps are cloudy. Quanz Auto Body can restore your headlamps so that you get the full illumination power of your regular and high beam lights. We can add this service to any scheduled maintenance appointment. Contact us to tack on headlamp cleaning or schedule a full fall detail.