Proper use of dipped headlamps
Proper use of dipped headlamps

It’s November and the gloomy days are coming thick and fast. Now is definitely the time to reacquaint oneself with the switch or stalk to operate the lights on the car.

Should be obvious? Well no.  In this country we seem to have a real issue with turning on lights during less than optimal driving conditions. On these dark days, it is particularly obvious.

Why should I bother?

According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), using dipped headlamps during the day can help to prevent head-on and front-corner collisions which frequently occur during the daytime.

They also make it easier to identify oncoming cars in the distance which can stop drivers from performing potentially hazardous overtaking manouvres. Studies from around the world including Denmark, Norway and the US, have shown that using headlamps during the day reduces the number of collisions.

Technology has stepped in to help us out. But these systems are not infallible and a bit of common sense goes a long way.

Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)

Since 2011, under European law, new cars must come equipped with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). There are two types: dipped headlamps or dedicated lights that automatically switch on when the engine is running. The dedicated DRLs are typically a strip of LEDs at the front of the car.

Then what about the rear of the car? It’s just as important to be seen for the benefit of drivers behind, but DRLs tend to be fitted to the front, not the rear. Relying on dedicated daytime running lights instead of driving with headlights or sidelights on, means that tail lights will not be illuminated during the day. This is where common sense comes in and it’s a good idea to flick on the dipped headlamps so the rear of the car is illuminated for the benefit of drivers behind.

Automatic Lights

Some cars come fitted with automatic lights which come on without driver intervention when it starts to get dark, most obviously demonstrated by the fact that they will switch on while driving through a tunnel on a bright, sunny day!

But automatic lights tend not to be so great at deciphering the many shades of grey ‘gloominess’ of an Irish winter. The human brain combined with a bit of common sense tends to do a better job.

For that reason, a car loaded with auto lights or daytime running lights or both does not mean that the driver is completely immune and can just leave it up to the car’s brain to decide when it is appropriate to switch lights on.

Which lights to put on?

Well sidelights can be a bit like candles so dipped headlamps are the way to go to be seen. We’re not just talking about the front of the car – it’s the rear too but switching on the dipped headlamps will ensure that the rear of the car is covered too.

Fog lamps are another useful asset but they are for very poor conditions indeed – fog, heavy rain or snowfall. Remember to switch them off in all other conditions and if you are confused check the manual so you know what each switch is for!


Putting on dipped headlamps should be a bit like putting on a seatbelt. It’s a simple action that can help drivers be seen and stay safe on the road. Don’t be an idiot – make sure all your bulbs are working and put those lights on!

Caroline Kidd