The Oregon Department of Transportation reminds travelers that daytime is a good time to light up – headlights, that is.
Everyone knows to turn on headlights at nighttime, but during the day it may also be wise to keep you headlights on. Winter conditions such as fog, blowing snow, rain, or the glare from a snow covered world can impact motorist’s vision.
Keeping your headlights on during the daytime helps other motorists see your vehicle long before they might see it without your lights on. Tests conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers determined that with headlights off, drivers can see oncoming cars when they are an average of 2,074 feet away. With headlights on, that distance more than doubles to an average of 4,720 feet.
When fog is present, even a light amount, having your headlights on greatly increases your safety. Also keep in mind that fog might be hiding icy road conditions, so take it slow and easy.
Here are some general safety driving reminders about low visibility driving.
- Slow down. Disengage your cruise control. Most accidents occur because drivers are going too fast for the weather conditions. Every year, “driving too fast for conditions” shows up in the top five most common reasons for crashes.
- Use your low beams. High beams will disperse in thick fog or snow, making visibility worse for you and other drivers.
- If using fog lights, turn them off when approaching vehicles. Oregon law says fog or auxiliary lights must be turned off when within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and within 350 feet when following another vehicle. Similar to high beam headlights, fog lights can impact other drivers’ ability to see clearly.
- Avoid entering an area if you cannot see a safe distance ahead.
- Minimize distractions. Always put cell phones away when driving. Keep your eyes and mind on the road and hands on the wheel.
- Increase following distance to ensure enough time to stop safely.
- Watch for emergency stops by other vehicles; watch for slow-moving and parked vehicles.
- Use the right edge of the road, white fog line or roadside reflectors as a guide. Do not change lanes or pass other vehicles unless necessary.
- If you suddenly encounter a severe loss of visibility where it is unsafe to travel, pull off the pavement as far as possible. Stop, turn off your lights, set the emergency brake and take your foot off the brake to be sure the taillights are not illuminated. Turn on your emergency flashers. This helps other drivers recognize you are stopped off the roadway.
- If you can’t pull off the roadway, slow down, turn on your low beam headlights and sound the horn occasionally. Use the white fog line or roadside reflectors if necessary to help guide you.
- Never stop in the travel lanes.
Driving with your lights on during the day throughout the winter helps contrast your vehicle against buildings and other terrain features. Diminished visibility results when there is little contrast between the color of a vehicle and its background, such as a lightly colored car against snow or a green car against foliage. Small cars are harder to see at a distance compared to pickups and SUVs. Headlights also contribute to safety on highways with one lane of travel in each direction.
Remember to keep your car headlights clean. Get in the habit of wiping off your lights at the gas station, before leaving home or the office. That way you’re ready for low-visibility conditions.
Be safe. Be seen day and nighttime this winter season.