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When to Use High-Beam Headlights

woman driving at night

If you are a new driver or primarily a city driver who doesn’t have much need for high beams, you may not know when to use them. The short answer is that you should turn them on when you are having difficulty seeing the road in front of you due to extreme darkness. However, there are several things to consider before engaging these lights, and there are times when it’s illegal to use them, so keep reading as we look into the subject more closely.

car and road divider

When should I use high-beam headlights?

High-beam headlights can make it easier to see the road in front of you, especially when there are no streetlights to help light your way. They are particularly helpful when you are having difficulty seeing more than 200 feet in front of the car, and they can improve your chances of seeing a deer or another object on the road in time to prevent an accident. They are indispensable on rural country roads when driving at night.

car headlight
Image By: Piqsels

When should I avoid using my high-beam headlights?

You should never use your high-beam headlights when you are behind another vehicle, as it can cause bright reflections in their mirrors that make it hard for them to see, increasing the risk of an accident. It would also be best to switch off your high beams anytime there is oncoming traffic, as the lights can blind them, especially if they are modern halogen lights that are extremely bright. Another time to avoid using high-beam headlights is in adverse weather. Rain and fog in the air act as a reflector, and low beams will help keep reflections out of your eyes because they are in a lower position. You’ll notice that most fog lights are close to the ground for this reason.

When should I use my low-beam headlights?

Most states require you to keep your low-beam headlights on when driving from sunset to sunrise. Many states also require you to turn on your headlights during adverse weather, like rain or snow, to help other vehicles see you better. You are also often required to turn them on in construction areas, to help workers see your vehicle. Many of these areas have plenty of reflective surfaces, so using headlights will make it easier to see your route.

person driving at night
Image Credit: victrixia, Pixabay

Other Tips About Headlight Use

  • Always turn off your high beams when entering a town or city. They make it difficult for other people to see, and many people who do turn them on are intoxicated, so police are more likely to pull you over.
  • If an oncoming vehicle has its high beams turned on, quickly turning yours on and off can help notify the driver of the other vehicle of their mistake.
  • If the oncoming vehicle does not turn off its high beams, focus on the right edge of your lane so you are not blinded.
  • Keep your windshield clean, as dirt will cause reflections and glare.
  • Keep the glass in your headlights clean. You might be surprised at how dirty they can get and how bright they are after you clean them.
  • Reduce your speed at night because your reaction time is slower.
  • Allow plenty of room between you and any vehicles in front of you, so you have plenty of time to stop if a deer runs out into the road.
  • Always put on your turn signals early, and avoid slamming on the brakes, so any vehicles behind you will have plenty of time to react.
  • If you notice your headlights pointing in different directions, take your car to a mechanic to have them adjusted.

Related Read: Are Colored Headlights Legal? What Colors are Legal?

LED headlight
Image Credit: Oleksiy Mark, Shutterstock

car and road divider


Most experienced drivers recommend using your high-beam headlights when you have difficulty seeing more than 200 feet in front of the car and there are no other vehicles around. Drivers primarily use them to navigate dark country roads with little or no street lighting. They can be quite effective at helping you see a larger area in front of your car, but bad weather like fog and rain can cause them to work against you by creating too many reflections. High beams can also be dangerous to other drivers if you don’t switch them off when they approach, as the bright lights can make it impossible to see the road in front of them. Using your high beams improperly can get you pulled over by the authorities and even fined in almost every state, so following the guidelines presented here is best.

Featured Image Credit: Daniel Jedzura, Shutterstock


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