Posted by: safedriver | June 27, 2010

High beams or low beams?

For the past twenty years, new vehicles sold in Canada have come with automatic Daytime Running Lights (DRL). These headlights came on immediately once we started the vehicle and released the parking brake. It was a great idea that was started by the military and major bus companies. It allowed other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to see us sooner.

Years before this happened, our Young Drivers of Canada students and instructors manually turned on their low beam headlights. These lights were far brighter than the DRL and they also activated the rear lights. This made us more visible from front and behind.

But when should you use your high beam headlights? This driver thought it was okay to drive with their high beams on during the day. After all, who would it bother? Well, you can tell from the photo that their lights were somewhat intense through my rear view mirror. It was intense enough that I adjusted the mirror so I had the night vision set until they turned off the road.

This driver had their high beams on for quite awhile, so why didn’t they notice the blue warning light? Did they intend to have their high beams on because it was an overcast day? Whatever their reason, it wasn’t appropriate. High beams are needed on a dark, country road to allow the driver to see well enough ahead of them to make proper driving choices; not in the city with a driver immediately in front of them. I hope this driver reads this…



  1. “Lighting intimidation”

    “Bi-Xenon Headlights & Daytime Running Lights”

    Having been a London Cabby for nearly 38 years working solely at night it was thought by some bright spark that brighter lighting on vehicles at night & day would help reduce accidents.

    DRL’s or Dangerous Running Lights have become so bright they are a distraction with many Motorcyclists believing they will be seen better with full beam Day or Night.

    Current regulations in the UK allow vehicles to dazzle others intimidating the opposing drivers. Please email your views on the awful Audi DRL’s and if you have been dazzled or blinded by xenon lights at night.

    My research finds that 7 out of every 10 drivers that do plenty of night driving have problems with xenon’s.

    Many thanks Ken Perham

    Founder of

    Trying to reduce the current accident rate at night running at 40%.

  2. DRL are a good idea, in the daytime. I think a lot of people don’t know read their owner’s manual regarding the lighting systems. Some vehicles automatically switch to a full lighting system at dusk, but some do not. Both of my vehicles require me to engage the full lighting system manually. I’ve lost count of the number of vehicles I’ve seen on the roads at night with no rear running lights.

    • Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thank you for posting my last comment.

    This is an old one from a journalist/motoring corespondant.

    Remember 40% of accidents happen at night and too many are young drivers

  4. Headlight fight hots up!

    War on the Bobby Dazzlers

    Too much light can also be a problem

  5. In legalese, high beams are known as “diving lights” while low beams are called “passing lights”. This terminology came from a time when we had only a few lighted streets, very few cars, and a population that largely lived in rural environments. Most of time drivers needed to use the stronger lights at night to see anything, and needed to dim the lights only on those not-often occurring situations of passing others.

    As most of live, work, and play, in urban environments that have street lighting, and as these environments are usually busy, most of us rarely need the stronger lights of the high beams.

    • amh… for the most part I agree, but — using high beams (driving lights) in urban areas WHERE THERE IS NO ONCOMING TRAFFIC can greatly enhance safety, by causing reflectors on parked vehicles to shine brightly, and by lighting up reflective material on the clothing of pedestrians and cyclists.

      This is not to say drivers should fire-up the high beams and leave them on; one must be alert to oncoming traffic, and vehicles one may be approaching, and be ready to switch back to low beams (passing) as needed.

  6. In Ontario, it’s illegal to have your high beams on when driving through any named town/village/city. Of course, most don’t know this and do it regardless.

    • I’d like to know what section of the Highway Traffic Act you found that information from.

      • So, when I’m driving through, say, Utopia/Essa (near Barrie/Angus, north of Toronto, if that rings any bells), on either one of two streets I can think of which curve dangerously, have numerous downhills and S-bends, and which have no streetlights except at the occasional intersection (nowhere near the dangerous parts, I might add), I’m not allowed to have on my high-beams? Really? Come on, laws or not, common sense is also a factor here… I would certainly hope I would not get ticketed in this area for trying to make my trip a little bit safer. Maybe I’m just being unreasonable, but it’s not safe to drive on either of those roads without the extra light that high-beams can offer you.

      • You’re not being unreasonable at all. The article was referring to having high beam headlights on in the daytime and with traffic in front. The laws in each jurisdiction allows for high beams, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with other traffic. In Canada, each province has different laws pertaining to distance. I agree that common sense has to be used. Thanks for the comment.

  7. i agree with you sir, in massachusetts its was illegal to have xenon light due to its brightness, but for some reason ive notice in Boston the police didn’t care. I wear bifocal and drive early in the morning when its still dark and my glasses seems to enhance the xenon light more than it should be, and i’m still young. I think they should make it iligal to certain brightness but we need the police to also be in this. i don’t think some drivers realize how blinding their lights are.

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