The clocks have now been changed back one hour, and many people are making their commute from work to home when the sun has already gone down. Despite there being less road traffic at night, this is when 30% of all accidents take place in Europe. In situations of poor visibility, it is important to know how to use your car’s lights properly to get the maximum safety from the car headlights. Maite París, who is in charge of Headlamps at SEAT, explains how to use dipped beam, fog lamps, high beam assist and more effectively:

No reason not to turn on the high beams

They are only allowed on intercity roads with little visibility, but “many drivers do not use them for fear of dazzling oncoming traffic. That’s where the high beam assist comes in handy”, explains Maite. This system detects the presence of vehicles in both directions and automatically switches back to main beams accordingly, providing extra comfort and safety.

6 months of darkness

This is how people live in the town of Rjukan, Norway, as they get no sunlight from September to March. In places like these, dipped beams are mandatory 24 hours a day. On the other hand, in countries such as Spain, dipped beams are only used at night or during the day when there is poor visibility, for example in a tunnel or under heavy rain. They must also be used when driving in a reversible lane. In these situations, the ‘Auto’ option “makes driving more comfortable, as it automatically activates the dipped beams”, assures this engineer.

LEDs, faster and safer

With the addition of LED bulbs, “not only do we save on consumption and gain in comfort, but we also improve safety”, says Maite. This kind of lighting is more similar to daylight than a halogen bulb. It also responds 150 milliseconds faster than an incandescent bulb, meaning that the LED of a brake light activates 5 metres sooner when driving at 120 km/h. Furthermore, they are designed to last throughout the service life of the vehicle and do not have to be changed.

When to turn on the fog lamps

Incorrect use of the rear fog lamps could cause excessive glare: they should only be turned on in extreme conditions of rain or fog.

One common mistake driver make is to turn on the rear fog lamps on a day with light rain. This expert points out that “they should only be turned on in situations when there is little visibility, like heavy rain or thick fog”. Incorrect use could dazzle other drivers. If your car is equipped with front fog lamps, you can use them “in cases of poor visibility such as heavy or very heavy rain, fog, snow or dust and smoke clouds, as well as on narrow winding roads.”

The most subtle light of all

Although there is no prohibition on the interior courtesy light, “it’s best not to use it for long periods so you can pay full attention to the road”, says Maite, who compares it to “going to the cinema: in order to concentrate on the film we need our surroundings to be as dark as possible.”

For more winter driving tips, check our previous Christmas driving tips article for a carefree holiday season.