High beams & what we need to know about them

Every vehicle comes with 2 sets of front white lights. The lights to be used normally are named headlights or low-beams; however, there is another set of lights which are brighter and can provide longer distance visibility, these lights are name “high beams”. Our post today is dedicated to these high beams lights, because it is important to know when to use them and when NOT to use them.

Firstly, we just want to explain that the main purpose of these lights is to provide you longer range of visibility in dark areas, also to flash them to safely warn others about your presence. The law in Florida (state where conduct our operations) clearly defines the use of these lights, and details can be found at the Florida Statutes Chapter 316.238(1).

It mainly confirms that we should not use the high beams within 500 feet of any vehicle approaching in the opposite direction, to prevent the direct glare to the other driver. Also, we should not use them within 300 feet when we follow another vehicle, to prevent the possible reflection in their rear view mirror(s).

Now, there is a very important fact to consider when we want/need to use the high beams driving at night or in dark areas, car nowadays are coming equipped with powerful LED lights, which are brighter than former halogen lights. Having brighter lights means that distance to potentially blind or upset other drivers is longer, leaving the 500 feet (for oncoming traffic) or 300 feet (when we follow others) pretty much outdated.

At JMP Driving School, we teach our students the law concerning the use of the high beams and distance the law also stipulates, but considering the disparity between car with halogen lights and newer ones with LED lights, we always suggest to prevent the use of the high beams when another vehicle is in front (despite the distance) to prevent any glare in other drivers (and possible dangerous scenario).

Normal headlights (AKA low beams) are bright enough in newer cars, that using the high beams is barely needed. After all, the better the other driver can see, the less chances to end up in a collision with us, (we can call that Win-Win scenario). On the other hand, nobody in front of your car? turn them ON and enjoy them.

Q. Is using the high beams in traffic illegal.

A. YES, it is. Any driver found using the high beams within the established legal distance, is a noncriminal traffic infraction, which is punishable as a moving violation as provided in Florida Statutes Chapter 318.

Final note: the picture below shows you the power of new LED lights activated in high beams mode, just imagine this amount of brightness in other drivers eyes.

This picture shows the glare caused by stock high beams lights activated in a  2018 Toyota Corolla  (equipped with LED lights).

This picture shows the glare caused by stock high beams lights activated in a 2018 Toyota Corolla (equipped with LED lights).

Fighting with traffic signs and why

It is very common to see new drivers (and sadly many drivers with years behind the wheel) showing clear issues to scan the road properly. The reason is because they experience what is called “tunnel vision”, therefore, no matter how clear traffic signs can be posted these drivers tend to look straight down into oblivion. When teaching how to drive we often ask our students the meaning of the last sign we went through and it is normal for them to turn the question into a guessing game.

Florida Statutes 316.183(2) says that “the maximum speed limits for all vehicles must be 30 miles per hour in business or residence districts” mostly because there is one lane moving on each direction and there is no physical divider or median in such areas. Repeating the same question over and over again, help new drivers to create the habit to keep their eyes moving and scanning at all times.

Without forcing the habit to scan the road side to side continuously, most of the new drivers can be easily confused when they face areas with variable speeds, especially in driving in areas where they are not familiar.

We believe some speed limit signs are wrong in some areas, for example, where the road is open and wide with a median (which is a clear difference when it is compared to any residential area) having a 30 mph sign where it could easily be 40 mph.

In these places the local authorities should make the road continuously higher than 30 mph, and avoid putting variable speed limits for such short distances. Surely, that is making some drivers entering a potential accident zone. It would be nice that our signs are put in place by road engineers and getting some advice from driver education institutions.

There are some really good signs preparing you to reduce speed and these are signs alerting you of a 30 mph to be reduced to 25 or 20 mph. They prepare you to slow down and their are eye-catching with the yellow background color.

The solar powered speed warning signs are becoming more common in metropolitan areas in the USA, they are very effective indeed because of the flashing mode feature to show your speed, and this can just make you ease off the gas if you have just brushed over the limit by mistake.

Until everything is designed better, keep your eyes moving constantly. Better safe than sorry.