When Should You Use High Beams?

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Use your high beams on dark, empty roads to increase your visibility. Do not use your high beams when other cars are near—it will impair their visibility.
Your vehicle has two modes for headlights: low beams and high beams. Your low beams give off less light and project about 200–300 feet in front of your vehicle.
Your high beams (commonly known as “brights”) usually require an additional step to manually turn on—usually a toggle on your turn-signal stalk. They project a much more intense ray of light that will give you visibility approximately 300–350 feet in front of your vehicle.
Using your high beams at the appropriate times can increase your visibility and make you a safer driver—but there are times when your high beams can actually make conditions more dangerous. Car insurance comparison shopping app Jerry breaks down the ins and outs of when to use high-beam headlights.

When to use high-beams

High beams increase your visibility and driver safety when you use them on dark, empty roads. They can especially help keep any pedestrians or animals safe if they’re present.
High beams are also helpful if you’re driving at higher speeds because they help you see further ahead. Again, just be sure to only use them when you are on an empty stretch of road with no traffic for at least 500 feet in front of and behind you.

When you shouldn’t use your high beams

While high beams can help you drive more safely, they can actually make driving conditions more dangerous if used at the wrong time.

You should not use your high beams if:

  • Another vehicle within 500 feet is approaching from the opposite direction
  • You are approaching a vehicle driving in your same direction within 500 feet
  • You are driving in heavy rain or fog
Because they are so bright, high-beam headlights can blind drivers coming the opposite direction. Be sure to turn your high beams down to low beams when oncoming traffic approaches.
High beams also blaringly reflect in the mirrors of cars driving in front of you. Be sure to use low beams when you’re within 500 feet of a vehicle moving in the same direction.
In heavy rain or fog, high beams can actually worsen visibility since they reflect on the water or fog—meaning you can’t see as far ahead. Only use your low beams in these conditions.
Key Takeaway Use high beams if you’re on dark, empty roads—but never use them when other drivers are in close proximity as it can impair their visibility.
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What to do when another driver has their high beams on

It can be incredibly irritating to drive past another car with its high-beam headlights on.
But it happens occasionally—and when it does, resist the urge to honk or flash your brights at the vehicle. This may just confuse the other driver. Instead, keep your eyes on the right perimeter of the road to avoid looking directly into the light.
If the car is behind you, flip your rearview mirror into night mode (there is typically a toggle on the underside of the mirror).

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When are high beams dangerous?

High beams are dangerous when you’re driving past oncoming traffic. High-beam headlights limit visibility for approaching vehicles (i.e., vehicles in the opposite lanes) and can increase the likelihood of an accident.
Only use your high beams when your car is the sole vehicle on the stretch of road you’re on. Turn them off as soon as you see approaching vehicles.

Should you use your high beams when driving in fog?

No. In heavy rain and fog, high beams actually provide worse visibility than your low-beam headlights. Always use your low beams when driving in fog.
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