How to use your headlights during the day

We’re in the depths of winter and skies are grey. Blue skies and sun are a rare site. Not driving during the winter isn’t an option for most people who rely on it to get to work the shops or run errands. But driving in this half lit, often foggy and gloomy weather brings with it a few extra challenges. Not only are roads often wet, and rain pelting but, while it’s still daytime, it can be so dark it’s hard to see other cars. Or for them to see you. This is where using your dipped headlights or sidelights even during the day can help tremendously.


We see little daylight hours during our typical Irish winter and even then the sunlight is reduced too. We get about 9 hours of daylight a day and spend most of it at work. During these 9 hours the weather makes the day dull, grey and darker still, which combines to reduce visibility on the roads. Using your daytime running lights, or your dipped headlights, helps other cars to see you, and for you to see them. In some Nordic countries it is a law to use your dipped or daytime running lights during certain winter months as studies have shown it reduces the number of collisions. Grey and silver cars are especially harder to see. You might stand and look at one and see it fine but taking a glance leaving a junction and they can be easy to miss. That’s not to say everyone should run out and buy a bright yellow car just to be seen a little easier.

Daytime running lights:

From 2011 on new European law cam into affect to make all new cars come with Daytime Running Lights as standard. Daytime running lights are small secondary lights, or a strip of LED’s at the front of your car. Some of them turn on automatically when your engine is running and some need to be manually turned on. Older cars don’t need to be retrofitted with them and will still pass the NCT, but where they are on a car they must be working.

Auto lights:

Many new cars have automatic headlights, this is a great way of taking the burden off the driver of remembering to turn them on and then remembering to switch over to your dipped headlights when its darker and time to do so. Not all cars have it though so double check next time your buying a new car. They can be left on even when you turn off the engine and get out of the car. The car will choose, using sensors, the right time to use sidelights, or dipped headlights. But it will always keep one of these lights on for you.

Sidelights or dipped?

Dipped headlights may be used at all hours, but they must be used after sunset and before sunrise. Your side lights, or your daytime running lights, can be used during the day and especially when the weather is poor and visibility low. But we’d advise to have some lights on your car at all times. Never rely on your side lights alone when driving at night. You must use dipped or full headlights.

Second nature:

Front seatbelts became mandatory in Ireland way back in 1979. It took a little time for drivers to get used to it but everyone did and now it’s second nature. Many new cars will even annoyingly beep and chime at you until you belt up. You should learn to make driving with your dipped or daytime running lights as second nature as belting up. There’s no downsides to it and it may just prevent an accident.

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