Fog lights, headlights, highbeams, daytime running lights and hazard lights…there are more than a few different lights in your car and here’s when and how you should use them.

We recently wrote about when and how to use your fog lights but that’s not the only light on your car that isn’t always being used the right way.

Here’s a quick overview of what you should and shouldn’t be doing:

HEADLIGHTS: While obviously the way to see in the dark, headlights have also always served another purpose – for other motorists to see you. When driving in poor conditions when it may be wet or foggy, or on the highway, it is a good idea to remember to turn your headlights on. This will make it easier for other road users to quickly notice you.

Daytime running lamps don’t put out the same lumens and don’t always light up the rear lights (though some new DRLs are brighter), so it’s a good idea to ensure you turn on the headlights.

HIGHBEAM LIGHTS: Highbeams simply add a lot more light so you can see even more at night. More important is when not to use them: when you are approaching traffic or following another car, don’t have them on. Highbeam lights will dazzle other drivers and can be blinding so make sure you only use them when there is no one else around This includes pedestrians and cyclists who won’t appreciate the bright lights beaming into their faces.

Automatic highbeams are a newer technology and manufacturers have various versions: some will alternate from high and low beam automatically when detecting other traffic, and some have an array of LED lights that allow only those which are directly blinding traffic to be turned off, meaning you the sides (into the bush and edges of road) will remain lit by highbeams.

HAZARD LIGHTS: The purpose of these flashing indicators is to warn other road users of a hazard, such as if you are parked dangerously close to a highway and/or obstructing traffic. Generally, they are not to be used when driving on the road or being towed. The exception might be if you must drive at a much slower speed than indicated and are warning other road users. You can also legally use hazard lights when driving in fog or rain to help road users see you.

FOG LIGHTS: Fog lamps should only be used when conditions are hazardous, such as in fog, dust storms, or the like. It is in fact an offence to turn the fog lights on when conditions don’t require them and is fineable, including at night if it is clear. Fog lamps are not your parking lights or daytime running lamps, they are individual lights usually located low on the bumper of your car – most cars have at least two fog lights at the front with one or two rear foglights as standard – and provide a vertical beam to help improve visibility.

WHEN IT FAILS… Working lights are part of a full roadworthiness certificate for obvious reasons. If a light isn’t working though, most newer cars will let you know… though it pays to check occasionally just in case, and replacing some bulbs is a pretty easy task.


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About Author

Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax,, AMC, Just Cars, and more.


  1. By my count it seems about 1 in 4 drivers are driving with fog lights on at night all the time. Some are even quite blinding. It couldn’t be being policed with rates that high. And yes those figures are real . I spent many drives home counting them during my many night shifts. I saw so many I just got curious. Daytime happens quite a bit too .

  2. What to do if u don’t have fog lamps in car…??? As my car by manufacture don’t have one…not even a blank spot for aftermarket

  3. I’ve noticed a huge number of drivers going around with their DRLs on not realising their headlights aren’t on at night. Perhaps there needs to be some sort of advertising campaign to turn your lights on at night.

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