Late last month, I headed out for an evening meeting at 6 p.m. The sunset was gorgeous. It was bittersweet to think that at that time in September, we still had an hour of daylight left. With the change of the clocks and shortening of days, sunset is earlier and sunrise is later. It’s important to use your headlights when driving around dawn or dusk or in other cases when visibility is poor — whatever the clock says. It makes a difference when it comes to car safety.

Headlights: Your Protection Against Accidents

Headlights not only light the road for you, but they make you more visible to other motorists. Studies show that driving with low beam headlights on during daytime reduces the risk of head-on collisions by more than 20 percent.

Vermont law requires we use headlights at all times from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. The laws also require that we use them in conditions of:

  • Insufficient light
  • Adverse weather
  • When visibility is less than 500 feet

Winter Driving: See and Be Seen

Speaking of visibility, using your headlights also helps protect pedestrians and cyclists. How? They make your car more visible to them and give them more time to react. By the same token, pedestrians and cyclists should use lights and reflective clothing to be more easily seen by motorists.

Of course, be sure to keep headlights clean, clear of snow, and correctly aimed. That way, they will do their job best whenever they are on.

Parking Lights are Not Enough

As a reminder, parking lights don’t take the place of headlights. Use them only when your vehicle is parked. If you can see and be seen, you and everyone will be safer on the road!

For more information on preventing injuries and fatalities for all road users—children, teens, older drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers with disabilities—see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Road Safety website. Be sure to also read our tips on how to keep kids in car seats safe in winter. 

Learn about more Safety Programs at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

Maureen Johnson is the Child Passenger Safety Specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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