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The Etiquette of Headlights

Updated on December 30, 2017

Every car has headlights and while some are manually turned on when you start a car, others have various settings that the drivers have to make choices with in their usage. It seems apparent that most people take their driver's test during the day and that headlight etiquette is not often taught to up and coming drivers. So here, at long last, is the Driver's Guide to Headlight Usage.

Etiquette #1 - The Untimely Blinder

Picture the scene - you're driving at night and you're coming over the top of a hill when suddenly it appears that nine million alien spaceships have landed on the road and you feel like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not only are you blind, but you're terrified because you can no longer see either lane.

There is a simple way to avoid blinding someone when you cannot see them. Look at the powerlines. The traffic lights from on-coming vehicles will be reflected on the powerlines long before the car will come into view. The excuse that you didn't know there was another car coming has zero validity now.

Be kind, don't be an alien spaceship.

Etiquette #2 - The Slow Driver Blinder

Here's the scene in this second faux pas - You're on a two-lane highway and you roll up on another driver. You pass them and realize they have their high beams on. You happen to be the only one who realizes this. Your combined headlight force has literally turned the world to daylight, and yet they continue on as if nothing is different.

Meanwhile, everything in front of you is an afterthought because you're more concerned about the interrogation spotlight beaming in through your rear window and you begin to wonder where you were on the night of March 5th of last year. There could literally be a parade of deer in the road and you wouldn't even have a clue because you're so distracted and angry about the idiot behind you.

Etiquette #3 - The Up and Comer Blinder

The third scenario is labelled as the opposite to what happens in scenario number two. In this development, you are the slower car and the person with their brights on comes up behind you. Similar to the Slow Driver Blinder, this person has no clue that you're back under interrogation as he comes up behind you with his brights on.

In your mind, you're just wondering when you can expect the lights to dim, that's your only concern. Not if you left the stove on, not about your family member's impending surgery. You only care about when you will be able to see the road in front of you again.

As fate would have it, right before they get even with your back bumper, the realization comes to them that they still have their high beams on and they finally turn them off.

In this instance, it's appropriate to leave your high beams on. Forever.

Which scenario is the most annoying to you?

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Etiquette #4 - The Opposite Lane Blinder

In this scene, you're on a two-lane highway and there is a median between the two directions of highway. To some people, this median is a barrier that cannot be seen through and shields their annoying bright lights from affecting you. Either that, or they don't think you'll drive your car across the grassy terrain in a road-rage incident to beat their headlights into submission with your tire iron.

What they fail to realize is that their headlights do have some effect in drawing your vision towards them. And that might be just enough to delay your reaction time from the huge deer that's certain to jump out from the right shoulder and sacrifice himself to the Car Insurance Gods.

Etiquette #5 - The Auxiliary Lights in the City Blinder

This one is one of our favorites. You've just driven in from the country and there wasn't much traffic and your two sets of lights completely illuminated the roadway brilliantly. We get it, your lights aren't bright enough on their own and you need a second set because you want to see the deer, in the neighboring state.

You did see the eighty street lights, right? And while deer are present in towns, you're driving thirty miles an hour. You'll be able to brake in plenty of time to avoid hitting them. So do us all a favor, turn off the second set of lights in town. You'd have to be completely blind not to see stuff.

Etiquette #6 - The One Headlight Out Blinder

This driver knows he has a headlight out but doesn't want to risk the fact that you're a cop and that you'll pull them over as soon as they drops their brights. So their option, to leave them on the whole time they drive by you, no matter how many times you flash them with your own lights.


So there you have it, drivers. The guide to using your headlights properly and avoiding some road rage incidents. Please be kind and remember, your headlights help you avoid danger, but could ultimately get you killed if you don't know how to use them properly.


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    • profile image

      Kevin Heemeier 

      16 months ago

      People in Tucson seems to always drive around with their bright lights on their vehicles, specially Suv's & 4 wheelers. Why??? Because they simply don't clean them!!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great hub!

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      2 years ago from Tasmania

      Are people never taught to use good basic common sense?

      Is everyone so wet-nursed up to adult age that they cannot think, reason, learn from experience and make sensible choices?


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