We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Headlights can cut crashes and save lives

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, February 2nd 2018

While modern cars sold in Canada all have forward daytime running lights, it’s a good idea to leave your headlights (and, by association, taillights) on at all times to see and be seen, Steve Wallace writes.



Vehicles appear closer when their lights are illuminated.
For this reason, headlights and taillights should be turned on when any motor vehicle is moving.
Most drivers do not light up during daylight hours.

This is a mistake.

Pedestrians, cyclists and people using other modes of transportation are much less likely to take a chance and cross in front of vehicles that are easily visible.
The brighter the lights of vehicles posing a threat, the less likely risky behaviour will occur by those wishing to cross a street, regardless of their chosen method of transportation.

Drivers wishing to pass others on a two-lane highway are discouraged from doing so when the approaching vehicles have illuminated headlights.
This illusion of closeness can save lives by giving pause to an ill-prepared highway-passing manoeuvre.
In my recent survey of vehicles on the Island Highway on a rainy day, 95 per cent had their front headlights or running lights clearly visible and operational.
Regardless of whether these lights were manually operated or daylight running lights were automatically on, the percentage is impressive.
The five per cent that were not illuminated were much less noticeable. Drivers are likely to ignore those oncoming vehicles.

It’s a natural human tendency to key on the light source, as opposed to those not lit up.
This fact of life puts every driver who is not lit up in greater peril.
When the same number of vehicles were surveyed driving away, only about 40 per cent had their taillights turned on.
This means they were only using the automatic daylight running lights.

This situation is equally dangerous.

Drivers following vehicles that do not have their taillights on are more likely to tailgate and be involved in a rear-end collision.
Having the rear lights on reduces the chance of a rear-end collision, the most common collision of all.
The same proximity principle applies with taillights as with headlights.
There are several high-end vehicles with front and back lights that turn on at ignition, but they are the exception rather than the norm.

Many drivers believe their headlights will burn out if they are used regularly.
This was the case many years ago, but recent technological improvements have eliminated the stress of short headlight and taillight life.
The parking-light setting will light up the back of the vehicle, for those wishing to avoid the full headlight burn-out risk, which is very real for older-model vehicles.

Cyclists should light up at all hours, as well.

The oscillating front white light and accompanying red back light draw attention to their path of travel.
It also distinguishes them from motor vehicles with a burned-out headlight.
Some cyclists get creative with lights: Wheel lights, for example, help drivers identify cyclists approaching at right angles in an intersection at night.

Pedestrians are well advised to light up at night.

Reflective garb will often be enough to get noticed by even the doziest of drivers.
Joggers will often use flashing lights when they are out for a run. It’s especially important to make sure kids are properly attired when walking at night.
Skateboarders, mobility scooter riders and all forms of transportation should light up and live!

As I was driving home from a meeting one night, I saw a flashing light ahead at ground level.

It took a while to figure out that I was seeing a small dog on a leash, being walked.

If Fido can do it, I’m sure we can all light up.






© 2023 Joan Wallace Driving School. All Rights Reserved.