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Winter driving means turn your headlights on

31 May 2005

Winter driving means turn your headlights on sooner

In the lead-up to Queen’s Birthday Weekend and as winter driving conditions become more prevalent the Automobile Association is reminding drivers to ensure their vehicles are visible by switching their headlights on more often.

“The law requires people to switch their lights on 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise but that is a bare minimum. Drivers should assume that if they are having difficulty seeing other vehicles on the road those other drivers will be having difficulty seeing them.” AA Public Affairs Director George Fairbairn said.

“Motorists need to remember that it is illegal to drive at night using only parking lights. If lights are needed during the day because of the conditions then headlights on dip should be used, and not parking lights only” he said.

Mr Fairbairn said headlights had the dual benefit of not only illuminating the road but also making approaching traffic far more noticeable. This was particularly important on the open road when no median barrier was provided and at intersections. Mr Fairbairn said drivers should switch their lights on in overcast conditions, particularly on the open road, and also when the sun is low in the sky behind them.

“In the early morning or at dusk it is very easy for your vehicle to disappear into shadow when the sun is striking on-coming traffic. Having your headlights on is the best way to let other drivers know that you are there.” He said.

Mr Fairbairn said drivers should make a habit of switching off their lights whenever they parked, to avoid the inconvenience of a flat battery.

According to University of Auckland researchers international research suggests that if all vehicles in New Zealand were adapted so their headlights came on whenever the engine was running or was fitted with separate daytime running lights as many as 30-40 fewer people would be killed on the road each year. This would however, come at some cost to the public.

A recent AA member survey has found that the idea of driving with headlights on at all times is not particularly popular. The idea was rejected (70% opposed) largely because members oppose compulsory measures and prefer freedom of choice.

The same survey discovered members were not opposed to public education on the benefits of using headlights during the day. Mr Fairbairn said it was encouraging that more and more drivers were voluntarily turning their headlights on in low light conditions during the day. There was clearly more that could be done by the public to improve safety for all road users.


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