Low Beam Headlights and How to Use Them

Motor vehicles – cars, trucks and motorcycles – have headlights. Why are they there? Because humans don’t see well in the dark. Some humans don’t see so well in the daylight, for that matter.

Headlights are a safety feature, both to keep others safe from us and to keep us safe from others.

High Beams and Low Beams

Headlights generally have two settings : high beam and low beam. Each type has a specific purpose and use. As a driver, it is your responsibility to know when it’s proper to use which setting.

 Low beam headlights  light up a small area in front of you, usually about 200 feet. Low beams point more toward the ground, limiting the amount of light directed into the eyes of drivers coming toward you in the darkness.

This means your lights are not blinding that driver, thus making you and the other driver safer.

 High beam headlights  cast a brighter light in a wider area, around 350 feet or more. High beams point in a straighter line. This means there’s extra light to help you see farther ahead of you down the road and you can see more along the sides of the roads. It also means there’s more light directed straight into the eyes of oncoming drivers.

When your high beams are pointing into the eyes of drivers coming toward you, both of you are less safe.

Using Low Beam Headlights

Low beam headlights are perfect for driving in traffic because of the lower amount of light emitted and the direction in which the light points. The goal is to give you enough light to see where you’re going and what’s in the road ahead of you without blinding those coming toward you from the opposite direction.

You should also use your low beam headlights when you’re driving in fog, rain or heavy snow. The lowered direction of the light works best for cutting through situations of low-visibility. Using your high beams in these situations causes the light to reflect back to you, producing a glare in your field of vision.

Riding with Low Beam Headlights On

Different states have various requirements for drivers to use their low beam headlights when driving in the daytime. Now, we all know we don’t normally need headlights to see the road ahead of us in the daytime. That’s not the purpose of these daytime headlight use requirements.

Studies done on motorcycle safety show that using low beam headlights offers motorcycle drivers an improved degree of visibility to other drivers. That means having your low beam headlights on during the day makes it easier for other drivers to see you, especially when you’re in busy traffic.

Common sense tells us to turn on lights at night so we can see. We also need to get into the habit of turning on our low beam headlights when we jump in the car or get on the bike to make a run to the store or head off to school. It may not help us see better but it helps others see us better.

And that makes us safer. That’s not a bad return for the simple act of turning on the lights.

Andrea Leptinsky


Learn more about drivers ed and get exclusive offers