High beams, ‘brites’, ‘long-see-in-dark’, or just brights, they’re all the same; BRIGHT. I’ve collected a wide range of driving experience over the last several years, and this is one of the big issues that continues to plague me, as well as many other drivers.
While the laws will vary slightly from place to place, here’s the general breakdown of when you should be using your high beams:
1) Anytime it’s after sunset, but before sunrise, AND there’s no approaching traffic within 500′ or so, and no traffic ahead of you (going the same direction) within 300′ or so.
2) When using them as a warning device to warn other drivers of some immediate danger.
When NOT to use your brights:
1) For any reason outside of the above two reasons, and anytime your brights will be shining brightly into someone else’s eyes!!
Yep, it really is that simple. I’ll talk about general light usage, and using your lights as a communications device in other posts, but here’s some examples of when you should or should not use your brights:
When someone is passing you (hopefully on the left!!), and you want to let them know they’re clear to move back over, DO NOT FLASH YOUR BRIGHT LIGHTS. Bright lights flashing mean, “DANGER!”. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, DON’T do it! The first issue is that it means “Danger!”, so the passing driver should cease the lane-change, recover, and evaluate the area around him/her to determine what the danger is or was.
During the day, bright lights are bright enough to shine directly into the eyes of the driver (especially for people who properly adjust their mirrors!!), and at night, they’re just down-right blinding!!
I was driving down a hill one night in a very cold and snowy area, and approaching a stop sign where my road “tees” into another road. There was traffic coming from both sides on that road, and as I began to brake my vehicle, I lost traction and started sliding. I began lightly feathering the brake, I geared down, and I flashed my high beams rapidly to warn other drivers that I was an imminent danger. I was able to regain traction and come to a complete stop just past the stop sign, but the other drivers had already begun evasive action to avoid a collision with me if I had not regained traction. This is a great way to use your high beams.
Another great way to use your high beams is to give a quick double-tap to oncoming traffic when there’s an issue ahead of them; a collision, pop-up construction, disabled vehicle, and yes, even police presence (the laws vary on this one, so do some research first). The idea is to show two quick flashes, far enough away from oncoming traffic so that it doesn’t blind them, and without flashing someone directly in front of you (that, too, will be another post).
Here’s the bottom line: Remember that your high beams are very bright, and outside of using them to see clearly at night in very dark areas with no other traffic around, they should only ever be used as a warning device.