Car Rental Safety Driving: Driving at night – Headlights

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of all traffic-related fatalities occur in the dark, despite only 25% of traffic travelling during darkness.

A headlight is a lamp, usually attached to the front of a vehicle such as a car or a motorcycle, with the purpose of illuminating the road ahead during periods of low visibility, such as darkness or precipitation. Headlamp performance has steadily improved throughout the automobile age, spurred by the great disparity between daytime and nighttime traffic fatalities.

Headlights enable you to see the roadway in front of your vehicle when visibility is poor, as well as making your vehicle visible to others. Your vehicle’s headlights must shine a white light that can be seen at least 150m in front and is strong enough to light up objects 110m away. You must also have red rear lights that can be seen 150m away and a white light lighting the rear licence plate when headlights are on. Headlights are equipped with the option to use a highbeam to enhance vision further down the roadway and the use of a lowbeam when you are near other vehicles to minimize the glare of your headlights onto others. When you use highbeam headlights, remember to switch to lowbeams within 150m of an oncoming vehicle. Use your lowbeams when you are less than 60m behind another vehicle unless you are passing it. These rules apply to all roads, including divided ones.

Turning your headlights on activates other required light systems, such as your parking lights, tail lights, and rear licence plate light. Daytime running lights, which are often another mode of your headlights or can be a separate lighting system, are specifically designed to make your vehicle more visible during times of good light conditions, and are automatically activated when your vehicle is in operation and your headlight switch is turned to off.

When driving your vehicle, headlights are required to be turned on between one-half hour before sunset and one-half hour after sunrise, and any other time of poor light conditions, such as fog, snow or rain, which keeps you from clearly seeing people or vehicles less than 150m away. Please see the section on driving at night and in bad weather. Don’t drive with only one headlight or with lights that are not aimed properly. Have your full lighting system checked regularly, keep them clean, and replace burned-out bulbs as soon as possible.

Your daytime running lights are not to be used as headlights during poor lighting conditions. They provide an inappropriate form of light that may cast glare onto others or deactivate other required light systems, such as tail lights. Daytime running lights are only to be used during good light conditions to enhance the visibility of your vehicle. If your vehicle is not equipped with daytime running lights, you should turn your headlights on to provide similar safety benefits.

Driving with your vehicle’s full lighting system set to automatic is recommended, if your vehicle is equipped with this option. This will better ensure that the appropriate lighting system is being used. You should also monitor the activation and operation of your vehicle’s full lighting system at all times to ensure that appropriate lighting is being provided.


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365A Wilson Avenue, Unit 216
Toronto, ON, M3H 1T3
Tel: 647-723-9000
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