After reading some incorrect opinions in this forum regarding fog and driving light use on ACT and NSW roads, I thought I’d attempt to clear things up.There is a lot of general confusion between fog and driving lights, what they are, what differentiates them, and when they may or may not be used.
After years of reading copious amounts of posts on Usenet groups and various driving forums, from police officers, road engineers, road handbook writers, and car enthusiasts, I have a pretty good understanding of fog and driving lights and how they may or may not be used.
If you have an extra set of factory installed white lights on the front of your car, separate to your headlights, that are not parking lights, then they are either fog lights or driving lights. If you have no idea which additional lights your car is equipped with, then follow this basic bit of advice; When driving amongst other traffic in clear conditions, day or night, you may not have either fog lights or driving lights on. Both types of lights are likely to dazzle other drivers and can prove a hazard to them and yourself if not used properly.
In a nutshell: Driving lights can only wired up to be turned on with high beams. Fog lights can only be wired to be turned on with parking lights, low beams or high beams. If you have a set of white lights on the front of your car that are not headlights or parking lights, and may be turned on independently of your headlights or parking lights, then chances are your additional lights are either illegal, or illegally wired.
More detail:Fog lights, when properly wired can be turned on with your parking lights, headlights and high beams. Your parking light switch should act as a “master switch” for your fog lights. When your parking lights are turned off, your fog lights will turn off, even if the fog light switch remains on. Fog lights are designed to light up the roadway underneath fog, hence they are installed lower on the vehicle than regular headlights. Legally fog lights may ONLY be used in fog, or other adverse weather conditions that hamper driving visibility. For best results in fog, fog lights should be turned on with parking lights only, as the light from regular headlights and high beams can reduce visibility by lighting up the fog, instead of the road ahead. Your fog light switch should have a symbol on it that looks like a regular low beam or high beam symbol, with a squiggly line through it. The light pattern from fog lights is wide and short, and will typically light up the road 20-30 metres ahead of your vehicle. If you use your fog lights properly, then you are likely to turn them on only a few times a year.Grey Area: Fog lights are handy at lighting up the sides of the road at night especially in country areas where animals are a threat. If there are no other vehicles around, there is no safety reason why you shouldn’t be able to use your fog lights in clear conditions, as long as you turn them off when other vehicles are approaching, or you begin catching up to another vehicle. Though as the law is written, this is still technically illegal.
Driving Lights, when properly wired may only be turned on with vehicle high beams. Driving lights are designed to complement vehicle high beams during long distance country driving, and therefore are usually installed at the same level as your vehicle headlights, or higher. The higher the lights, the better positioned they are to light up the road in the distance. Driving lights may ONLY legally be used when there are no other vehicles 200metres in front of your vehicle, either approaching, or moving in the same direction as you. This rule also applies for high beam use, though the majority of drivers will turn off their high beams and, if fitted, driving lights as soon as another vehicle is visible ahead at any distance in order to be considerate. There is nothing illegal about using high beams or driving lights in street lit areas if there are no other vehicles ahead of you. The light pattern from driving lights varies from model to model, however a typical driving light will light up the road from between 200 and 500 metres ahead of your vehicle. Top of the range driving lights can light up the road up to 1km ahead of your vehicle.
What’s the problem with using fog lights or driving lights in any other conditions than what they were designed for? Simple. They can be blinding to other drivers. Not only is it incredibly inconsiderate to knowingly blind other drivers, it is also dangerous and you could cause the other driver to crash, possibly into you.
If you wish to improve the visibility of your vehicle during the other day, no worries, just turn on your regular, low beam headlights. This is not illegal or inconsiderate.There are those who insist on driving with their fog lights on in all conditions for various reasons, from they think it looks “cool”, to being unaware of the law, and to light up the sides of the road. Personally, I only care when an oncoming driver has a particularly blinding pair of fog lights lit illegally. For example VT-VZ Commodore fog lights are utterly terrible and incredibly blinding to an oncoming driver. It’s worth noting that there are plenty of drivers who in return for being blinded by a pair of fog lights will not hesitate to blind back with their high beams, though this of course is illegal too.
I hope this clears up any confusion people may have about any additional lights on the front of their car. If not, remember the basic advice from the top of the post: “When driving amongst other traffic in clear conditions, day or night, you may not have either fog lights or driving lights on.”