Driving around the neighborhood can be dangerous at night, and in the fall months, it gets darker earlier, meaning that there will be more nighttime drivers. With other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the road, you must make sure that you can see everyone and everything while driving.
It is important to have the best headlights available to maximize your field of vision during nighttime driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has a ratings system that grades the quality of headlights. Installing better headlights will boost your visibility while on the road. When you cannot see what is in front of you, it increases your chance of getting involved in a car accident.
What Are the Headlight Laws in Virginia?
Before going out on the road, you should familiarize yourself with what the headlight laws are in Virginia. Headlights are required, but when you need to turn them on depends on several factors. Your headlights must be turned on:
- From sunset to sunrise. During conditions of rain, fog, smoke, insufficient light, snow, sleet, or any other reduced visibility condition that prevents the clear discernment of vehicles or people at a distanced of 500 feet.
- During the operation of windshield wipers because of rain, fog, snow, or sleet. There are questions about what to do with those cars that offer intermittent wipers. These are wipers that operate every few seconds before wiping depending on the frequency selected by the driver. These are ideal for situations when the weather is not bad enough to justify constantly-running wipers. These occur during misting rain, snow, or sleet. When the wipers are engaged in this fashion, it is not necessary for you to turn on your headlights.
How Can I Chart the Quality of My Headlights?
The IIHS realized the importance of high-quality headlights as a safety matter, and in 2015, added them to its safety ratings system. The IIHS ranks headlights as good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. The evaluations test headlights’ ability to illuminate the road at certain distances in front of a car traveling 40 to 50 miles per hour.
Since the organization came up with its ratings system, it has investigated more than 44,000 police reports that were taken in the aftermath of single-vehicle crashes that took place at night. It categorized the ranking of the headlights with the crash and found that its rankings were a good barometer for the risk of a nighttime accident.
Their analysis discovered that out of the accidents they looked at, the cars with headlights with a good rating had 19 percent fewer crashes per mile than those with a poor rating. Meanwhile, those cars with headlights given an acceptable rating led to 15 percent less crashes, and marginal-ranked headlights had 10 percent fewer crashes per mile than the poor-ranked ones.
These ratings are getting incorporated more into the design of cars. Out of those vehicles that came off the assembly line the year the IIHS released this ratings system, only four percent of cars earned a good rating. In 2021, that number increased to almost 30 percent.
How Can I Keep My Headlights Safe and Effective?
Once you have managed to secure high-quality headlights, you must maintain them to ensure that they maintain their effectiveness. There are a few precautions you should take to guarantee that you are getting the most out of your headlights.
Clean the Headlights
When you take a moment to clean your windshield, do the same with your headlights. That same dust and grind that developed on your window has done so on your headlights. It does not take much to significantly reduce their illumination on the road.
Check the Aim
Headlights should point straight. They can get moved by an impact or if you failed to secure the bulb after replacing it recently. To verify that your headlight is straight, use your garage door as a test. Shine your headlights at the door, they should be equidistance apart and off the ground. If there is an inconsistency there, you should have your lights fixed.
When a headlight goes out, it may take some time to realize it, but once you do, you should replace it immediately. It can be a surprisingly complex job depending on the vehicle, but it should still take place as soon as possible. If you notice your headlights starting to dim, that could be a sign that they are going to die soon, and you should replace them before they do.
Consult the Owner’s Manual
By consulting the manual, you can familiarize yourself with your car’s symbols for both daytime running lights and headlights. This will help so you can tell immediately that the headlights are on.
When you engage the automatic settings on your headlights, it means they will illuminate on their own when it gets dark. This eliminates the need of you having to do it in case you forget or if you do not realize how dark it is getting as you drive. Given the light sensitivity, they will also activate during a storm when it gets dark out.
When you see other drivers approaching without their headlights, give them a quick flash of your lights to let them know. Then, make sure that you did not inadvertently turn yours off.
Set Good Habits
If you do not have automatic headlights, get yourself in the habit of turning them on at the first sign of the sun going down. If you are still driving with them on as the sun comes up, leave them on for a bit, as various states differ on when you can turn your headlights off.
Having headlights that rate as good in the IIHS’ ratings system is a great start, however, not getting proper maintenance will increase your chance of getting into a car accident.
What Improper Headlight Uses Should I Avoid?
There are improper uses of your headlights that can make it difficult for you to see what is in front of you and can be distracting to other drivers. High-beams are effective when driving through areas with no streetlights. However, they can become distracting to other drivers when they stay on when oncoming traffic is approaching.
For the opposing driver, if they stare directly at the bright lights, they can get spotty vision, which makes it difficult to see the road. Keep the lights on high as you need them, but immediately switch them off when oncoming traffic approaches.
Extremely cloudy headlights can be a problem for the driver. When you have a cloudy headlight, it can reduce your visibility, thus making you more prone to be involved in an accident. The same is true if you fail to turn your headlights on when it gets dark out.
It is important to improve your headlights. It is also essential that you take care of your headlights and use them properly to avoid the possibility of being involved in a car accident.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You After a Nighttime Collision
You should make sure your headlights are effective, but you cannot guarantee that other motorists will have good headlights. Our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers can help you if you were injured in a nighttime accident. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we help injured plaintiffs find justice. Call us at 757-352-2237 or fill out our online form today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.