The best way to use high beam headlights…
I enjoy teaching and spending time with people. It’s been fun teaching my own son how to drive and recently he had a chance to drive on a dark rural road at night. I know many people would refuse that type of drive, but he actually asked to drive as we were heading off to camp on a Friday evening. I took this opportunity to teach him a few things about using high beam headlights that many people never really get to learn.
One of the mistakes drivers make while driving on a dark road is turning their high beams to low beams too soon. Most drivers tend to drop to low beams the moment they see the headlights of the approaching vehicle. That’s way too soon. Stop being too nice. The spray of your headlights hasn’t reached the driver approaching you, so what’s the hurry to go to low beam? If you do, you’re driving too fast for what you can see. This is commonly referred to as over driving your headlights.
When you’re over driving your headlights, by the time you see a problem ahead in your lane, such as an animal carcass or fallen tree, you won’t have enough time to stop. The sooner you can see a problem, the sooner you can respond to it. That’s why we need out high beam headlight on as long as possible while driving on a dark highway.
As my son and I were travelling along, he came toward an oncoming vehicle. I coached him into leaving his high beams on until the spray of our headlights reached the spray of the oncoming driver’s headlights. Once that happened, he switched the high beams to low beams. During this ten minute drive or so, no one flashed their headlights to tell us to switch to low beams. The main reason? We weren’t close enough to have our headlights bother the driver.
The spray of our headlights eventually fades into darkness. The closer the drivers get to the vehicle, the brightness of the headlights intensify. Therefore, in most new vehicles you will still be hundreds of metres from the oncoming vehicle when you need to drop your high beams to low beams. Why create a problem for yourself when you aren’t really bothering anyone else?
In most jurisdictions, it’s illegal to have your high beams on approaching another driver. Even in those jurisdictions, they do give some type of measurement. Currently in Ontario Canada you must lower your high beam headlights when you are 150 metres from the approaching vehicle. That’s a tough thing to measure when you’re traveling between 60 and 80 km/h, let alone at night traveling those speeds. Instead of trying to figure out a measurement, it’s much easier and more accurate if you go by the light beams itself.
After doing this for a couple of vehicles, my son found his groove. It wasn’t too difficult and he appreciated having the longer view up the road and the wide spray of his high beams instead of the narrow spray of the low beam headlights. The risks of large animals coming from the brush is always apparent in areas like this, so having a good view of the sides of the road is always a good thing. After this time with my son, I finally think he saw the light…of this lesson.