Fog Lights and Driving Lights

Sgt.Bungers 7 May 2008 58

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.”


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58 Responses to Fog Lights and Driving Lights
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Bludger Bludger 1:25 pm 13 May 08

Just one more thing to add to this topic (cos it really urks me), on the site ratetheplate.com if people are so dazzled by drving lights and fog lights, how are they able to:

focus on number plate
remember number plate
write number plate down

continue to drive safely after doing the above whilst being dazzled enough to complain about it?!!?

All a bunch of hoo-ha I think. If you’ve really been dazzled by something and it’s caused concern to your safety, you wouldn’t be able to do the above because you’d be focused on driving or about changing your underwear.

minime2 minime2 12:23 am 10 May 08

My motorbike comes with “on all the time” headlight whilst ignition on. Good idea. After reading stats on silver grey cars “vanishing” in overcast weather, winter background, and around late afternoon, I tend to drive with headlights on. I hope the guy coming toward me has not had his retinas burnt out by bigred’s lights…. I’ fragile.

bigred bigred 6:10 pm 09 May 08

nothing is better than an array of powerful lights correctly aimed to burn some fool’s retinas. I find if you aim correctly you can create real mayhem. Hey, no one ever checks your aim in this town anyway.

Ingeegoodbee Ingeegoodbee 4:01 pm 09 May 08

If anyone comes towards me with fog lights on I just hit my full beams straight back at them.

Which, if done to me is simply an invitation to unleash all four xenon gas discharge HID driving lights on the insolent little prick.

Sgt.Bungers Sgt.Bungers 12:20 pm 09 May 08

Bludger said :

Yes but Sgt Bungers your sister was blinded by high beams, not driving or fog lights. I’ve been blinded by idiots that don’t dim their high beams many times. My question was about fog/driving lights and accidents caused by these. I don’t think it would be very high.

I’ve noticed on ratetheplate – fog/driving lights are the second most complained about. Half of these are during the day. Does it really bother people that much?!

My point was that bright lights, be it high beams, driving lights or fog lights, will cause someone to be momentarily blinded. Not being able to see for even a few seconds when at the controls of a fast moving machine is a very real hazard. Hence why low beam headlights are angled in such a way so that there should be no beam of light shining into the eyes of drivers of oncoming vehicles, and hence why driving and fog light use is illegal unless used in the right circumstances.

Considering with a vehicle, we’re not just talking about the couple of seconds it takes the human eye to reajust after copping a bright light, but also for the time someone actually has the light in their eyes, with the vehicle approaching, their sight is deminished. This could amount to quite some time…

Driving lights and high beams are not designed with any concern for the safety of other drivers, and neither are cheaper fog lights. Driving with fog lights or driving lights on with other traffic around simply adds another hazard to what is already one of the most dangerous activities many people will undertake in any given day.

With so many people complaining about it, it obviously annoys people. To be honest I think you’ll be hard pressed finding anyone who enjoys having bright lights shone in their eyes at any time. I also think you’ll be hard pressed finding anyone who think’s it’s not a hazard to have a closing speed of up to 200km/h with another vehicle, when the driver of that vehicle cannot see properly.

madman madman 11:58 am 09 May 08

man i hate coding – the quote was the first 2 lines and my comments the rest

Comments: Not too sure why you would still be doing 108km/h while being blinded?

If anyone was blinding me whilst driving my tonne of steel i would slow down – if anything blocks your vision you’re meant to brake and slow down.
Same with driving over a blind hill or a blind bend – you’re meant to brake to avoid a collision because you don’t know what is waiting for you at the other end. Same applies for being blinded – not rocket science.
Also if you reduce you spead by 20km you reduce your stopping distance and reaction time.

Again… beyond me why you would still be doing 108km/h or as you said 30mtrs per second while having your vision invaded.

tsk tsk tsk silly silly silly….

madman madman 11:57 am 09 May 08

Sgt.Bungers said :

Bludger said :

Not only that, it’s simply unpleasant to be blinded by any light whilst controlling a several tonne piece of machinery moving at up to 30 metres a second.

Not too sure why you would still be doing 108km/h while being blinded?

If anyone was blinding me whilst driving my tonne of steel i would slow down – if anything blocks your vision you’re meant to brake and slow down.
Same with driving over a blind hill or a blind bend – you’re meant to brake to avoid a collision because you don’t know what is waiting for you at the other end. Same applies for being blinded – not rocket science.
Also if you reduce you spead by 20km you reduce your stopping distance and reaction time.

Again… beyond me why you would still be doing 108km/h or as you said 30mtrs per second while having your vision invaded.

tsk tsk tsk silly silly silly….

Bludger Bludger 11:15 am 09 May 08

Yes but Sgt Bungers your sister was blinded by high beams, not driving or fog lights. I’ve been blinded by idiots that don’t dim their high beams many times. My question was about fog/driving lights and accidents caused by these. I don’t think it would be very high.

I’ve noticed on ratetheplate – fog/driving lights are the second most complained about. Half of these are during the day. Does it really bother people that much?!

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 10:07 am 09 May 08

Sgt.Bungers said :

The only disadvantage to it is that studies have shown an average 0.17% increase in fuel consumption whilst headlights are on due to the extra load on the alternator, and of course going through bulbs at a higher rate.

Hardly a disadvantage is it. 🙂

Sgt.Bungers Sgt.Bungers 9:57 am 09 May 08

In regards to head lights on during clear daylight conditions… Personally drive with my lights on all the time. After years of country driving where it was clear to me how much easier it was to spot a vehicle in the distance that had it’s lights on, it has simply become habit that I do the same… ignition on, headlights on. I don’t even think about it.

The only disadvantage to it is that studies have shown an average 0.17% increase in fuel consumption whilst headlights are on due to the extra load on the alternator, and of course going through bulbs at a higher rate.

cranky cranky 7:06 pm 08 May 08

Queenie has questioned whether drivers with a ‘lights on’ mentality are perhaps predisposed to safer driving.

My example of the surveys of fleets experiencing a 15% reduction in accidents also indirectly linked to Telstra.

From observation of ex Telstra vehicles, I believe they are hard wired to illuminate the low beam lights whenever the engine is going.

Nothing to do with driver competence.

Bungle Bungle 6:24 pm 08 May 08

or lights on even…

Bungle Bungle 6:23 pm 08 May 08

I think it’s worse to be dazzled by someone on the phone while driving, changing their radio station/cd, driving through your drivers side door when you didn’t see them because they didn’t have their lights one, etc.

Sgt.Bungers Sgt.Bungers 5:48 pm 08 May 08

Bludger said :

Since everyone goes on and on about fog lights and driving lights – is there any statistic for accidents caused due to ‘dazzling’ fog/driving lights? Or does anyone even know of someone that has been in an accident due to being ‘dazzled’ by fog/driving lights? I just find this whole topic absurd.

Not sure if anyone asked this Question before, didn’t read entire post. I must have been dazzled…

Bludger, my sister had an accident about a year ago after being blinded by high beams. Immediately after passing the oncoming vehicle with it’s high beams on, there was a kangaroo in the middle of the road which she was then unable to avoid. Chances are, the driver of the vehicle accidentally left their beams on whilst concentrating on the roo, or possibly deliberately left them on so as to see what the roo was doing, without regard for the driver of the vehicle coming the other way (my sister). The result, one dead roo and several grand damage to a car. Lucky it was only a roo and not a person.

If the oncoming car had been equipped with driving lights as well, the situation would have been even more dangerous, given driving lights are simply additional, brighter high beams.

With some fog lights being as blinding as some high beams, especially when comparing the high beams of older cars to cheap and badly designed fog lights (late Commodore range), the potential for an accident is there, albeit low.

Not only that, it’s simply unpleasant to be blinded by any light whilst controlling a several tonne piece of machinery moving at up to 30 metres a second.

Bludger Bludger 3:55 pm 08 May 08

Since everyone goes on and on about fog lights and driving lights – is there any statistic for accidents caused due to ‘dazzling’ fog/driving lights? Or does anyone even know of someone that has been in an accident due to being ‘dazzled’ by fog/driving lights? I just find this whole topic absurd.

Not sure if anyone asked this Question before, didn’t read entire post. I must have been dazzled…

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 3:45 pm 08 May 08

It’s not an argument Queenie, just trying to get you to open your eyes to other possibilities, and cars, as it turns out. 😉

p1 p1 2:01 pm 08 May 08

Where’s the proof driving with your headlights on makes you more visible?

Here

Here

or for the overall discussion of pros & cons,

Here

Queenie Queenie 1:47 pm 08 May 08

These studies that show that people who drive with their lights on have 15% less accidents might not necessarily be because they have their lights on. It might be because they are more conscientious drivers and are careful about driving (they think putting their lights on will help so they do it). There’s all sorts of crazy variables there.

But then again, I’m not the one who conducted the study and I’m not going to bother reading a whole lot of boring stuff just to try and ‘win’ somebody else’s argument against me. Arguing on the internet = winning the Paralympics, still retarded, etc.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 11:58 am 08 May 08

Queenie said :

Really, people saying that headlights increase your visibility during the day is bull. [b]Unless you have a sight impairment…[/b]

…I’m quite light-sensitive and have problems seeing the road just with normal car headlights…

Queenie, if you’re having problems with regular headlights during the night, it’s no wonder you can’t see the benefit of using low beams during the day. Please let me know where you usually drive so I can be sure to avoid you.

As for studies that prove the benefits of Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)–which to be fair, can be a modified light output compared to normal low beam–have a read of the following links (make sure you’ve got your glasses on too):
http://www.mynrma.com.au/cps/rde/xchg/mynrma/hs.xsl/releases2003_41.htm
http://www.tc.gc.ca/road/faq.htm#daytimerunninglights
http://www.usroads.com/journals/rmej/9912/rm991203.htm

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 11:49 am 08 May 08

The “but it increases my field of view” argument can be flawed in some instances. Depending on the spread of fog lights the last thing you want to be doing at night time is increasing your field of view immediately in front or to the side of you. Ideally you’d be raising your eyes and well past the danger stage of any area being lit up by your fog lights.

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