Being a responsible driver is more than just obeying the traffic rules. A responsible driver should know all the safety functions of their vehicle, the use of high beam vs low beam is one of them.
Car accidents are something that is way too common on our roads nowadays. Estimated reports show that up to 40,000 lives are lost every year in the United States alone due to car accidents. These are very alarming numbers. This is why every time you are behind the steering wheel, it is very important for you to be a good and responsible driver.
Whether you are driving a car or motorcycle, you are equipped with a lot of safety features. Learning how to use these properly will greatly reduce your chances of getting in an accident.
One thing that you surely use is your headlights. Whenever it is dark, everyone turns on their headlights. But did you know that your headlights have two modes? These modes are low-beam, and high-beam.
Surprisingly, there are still plenty of drivers out there who don’t know how to use these. If you are one of these people, you should change this right away. Learning how and when to use these modes will not only help you, but it will also make your driving a lot safer.
High Beam Symbol
It’s also important to know what mode you are on at all times. This is very easy to do. All you need to do is glance at your dashboard to know what mode you’re on. This is because on your dashboard, there’s a blue indicator light shaped like a headlight. This light turns on whenever you are in high-beam mode.
High Beam Light Symbol
How to Turn On High-Beam?
Long ago, switching from low to high-beam meant getting out of your car and manually adjusting the direction of the headlights. Today, all you need to do is to flip a switch.
If you’re in a car, you’ll find a lever behind your steering wheel. For most cars, this lever is the switch for your lights, signal lights, and light modes.
This lever will be on low-beam by default. To switch to high-beam, simply push the lever forward. To return to low-beam, just pull the lever back to where it came from. It’s that easy! When you know how to use this, you can avoid so many dangerous situations.
This lever also has another function known as the flasher. One of the best ways to communicate with other drivers is by flashing high-beams at them.
To do this, lightly pull back the lever from low-beam. This will put your lights on high-beam mode until you let go. Flashing your lights several times quickly will alert other drivers of your presence.
When to Use High-Beam?
Now that you know the differences between high and low-beams and how to switch between them, let’s take a look at when to use and when not to use them.
High-beam is used far less than low-beam is. However, high-beams are incredibly important in several situations. Let’s have a look at the right times when do you use high-beam.
The most obvious time to use a high-beam would be when you are on a dark road. We will have a look at why using low-beam in these situations is very dangerous. Unlike low-beam which points downward, high-beam points straight ahead.
This allows you to see what is far ahead on the road. You’ll never be caught off guard when you are on high-beam. Aside from that situation, avoid using high-beam.
When Not to Use High-Beam?
Using the high beam is not only unnecessary in well-lit streets, but it is also very risky. This is because high-beams can blind other drivers. The straight lights are going to obstruct the vision of the oncoming traffic. And there is nothing more hazardous than a driver who can’t see.
The rule of thumb is that you should switch back to low-beam whenever there is a car within 500 feet ahead. Following this simple rule will make your driving so much safer.
High-beams are also capable of blinding drivers in front of you. Even if they aren’t driving straight into your lights, they can still be blinded. This is because high-beams can also get into the rearview and side-mirrors of a car. So if there are cars around you, just don’t use high-beams.
Another dangerous mistake a lot of people make is using high-beam in extreme weather conditions. When it is raining, fogging, or snowing hard, they believe that high-beams will make them see better. This is a big mistake.
Using high-beams here actually decreases your vision. This is because high-beams will bounce off the droplets and blind you instead. It isn’t going to help you to see what is behind the curtain of rain, snow, or fog.
This is why your best option is to use low-beam. This way, you will at least see the road that is directly in front of you. All you have to do now is to drive slowly to avoid any dangers.
Low Beam Symbol
Low beam is the default mode of your headlights. This is because on your dashboard, there’s a green indicator light shaped like a headlight. The symbol of this light points downwards.
Low Beam Light Symbol
When to Use Low-Beams?
It is very important to turn on your lights during night-time. This is not only because it is necessary to see, but also because it is important to be seen. You want to turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other drivers.
What you don’t want, however, is to blind other drivers with your lights. This is why whenever you are driving on busy streets, you should always be on low-beam.
Your headlights will be pointing downwards, so it won’t get directly into other driver’s eyesight. This is the safest way to drive during night-time when there are cars around you.
As said before, low-beam is your default mode of headlight. When you are driving on city roads, there will always be street-lights illuminating the road. These street lights are going to provide enough light for you to see far ahead.
You’ll only need your headlights to see what is directly in front of you. This is why when you are driving on city streets, low-beam is all you need, even if there are no cars around you.
When Not to Use Low Beams?
The only time low-beam becomes dangerous is when the road is very dark. If you are driving on rural roads at night, low-beam may not be enough. You won’t be able to see anything that isn’t directly in front of your car.
You also will not be able to see how road curves ahead. Again if there is something on the road, it will remain unnoticed by you. And you just won’t know when you should be slowing down.
Too many accidents have happened due to the driver not being able to see what was ahead. This is why you shouldn’t be using low-beam on dark roads.
High Beam vs Low Beam: The Final Comparison
Direction of The Lights
When you are on low-beam mode, your lights will be pointed downwards slightly. This will illuminate the road that is directly in front of your car. When you are on high-beam mode, your headlights will be pointed straight ahead. This allows you to see much further ahead than low-beam mode will.
Usage in Well-lit Roads
Generally speaking, you’ll be using low-beam mode most of the time. Whenever you are driving on well-lit roads, low-beam is the better choice. But whenever you are on a dark road, high-beam should be used so you can see ahead clearly.
Usage in Busy Roads With Traffic
Whenever there are cars around you, low-beam is the proper choice. Whenever you are in doubt, use low-beam instead of high beam. There is little that can go wrong when you are in this mode.
Communicating With Other Drivers
Using your high beam as a flasher is arguably better than using your horn. High-beams get directly into a driver’s eyes, which is why you can use your flasher as an unmissable warning. Whether you want to alert another driver of your presence, or you want to communicate your right of passage, flashing is the way to go. It is easy, effective, and completely noise-free process. But low-beam light is not strong enough to be used as a flasher unlike the high beam light.
During Bad Weather Conditions
As I have mentioned earlier, low beam is the best choice when it is raining, fogging, or snowing hard. This is because high-beam light waves will bounce off the droplets and make you unable to see instead. It is the exact opposite in the case of using low beams.
A lot of accidents could have been avoided if only the drivers were more responsible. Knowing how and when to use low and high-beam is one of the easiest ways to remove so many unnecessary risks on the road. Sadly, there are still plenty of drivers out there who don’t know this.
If you’re a new driver and you are looking for a simple rule of thumb to follow, it is this: always use low-beam unless it is very dark.
As you continue driving and get more experience though, you will find that you can correctly judge what to use in any situation.