As a new or novice driver, you may ask when to use full beam headlights. Full beam headlights or main beam headlights as they are also known are positioned or ‘angled’ so to provide the driver with as much illumination of the road ahead as possible.
In contrast, the other headlight option –dipped headlights, are angled downwards and to the left (for countries that drive on the left) to avoid dazzling drivers of oncoming vehicles. Full beam headlights can also be referred to high beam headlights and they are angled higher than dipped, or low beam headlights.
As a result, full beams will therefore shine directly into the eyes of drivers of oncoming vehicles causing significant road blindness and dazzle, which is of course dangerous as they cannot see where they are going.
Full beam headlights should not be used where they may dazzle another motorist, cyclist or pedestrian and instead dipped headlights must be used.
Full beam headlights use
Full beam headlight use during daylight hours
Full beam headlights still cause significant dazzle to other road users even during the day. If the daylight is somewhat subdued due to weather conditions, opt for sidelights or dipped headlights instead of full beams.
Full beam on a motorway or dual carriageway
Whilst driving on a empty motorway or dual carriageway late at night, it is perfectly acceptable to use full beams as this increases your viewing distance. You must however switch to dipped headlights as soon as you see an approaching vehicle on the opposite carriageway.
Full beam, or high beam headlights illuminate at a distance of around 350 feet (106 metres), almost double of dipped headlights that illuminate at a distance of around 160 feet (48 metres). Dazzle can extent much further up to around 1000 feet (305 metres).
Full beam headlights in fog
Whilst driving in fog, use dipped headlights only along with front fog lights if you have them. Dipped headlights are angled towards the road and will illuminate further than full beam headlights in fog.
Full beam headlights angle is higher and will therefore shine directly into the fog and most of the light will reflect back towards the driver. See driving in fog for further advice.
Following other vehicles
Following other vehicles requires the use of dipped headlights only. The use of full beams will dazzle drivers in front in their mirrors.
When to use main beam headlights
There’s no law or legal requirement to use main beam headlight at any time. In fact, with the ever increasing amount of vehicles on UK reads, it’s often easier to use only dipped headlights as you’ll find yourself constantly switching between the two.
If you do prefer to use main beams due to the increased visibility, it’s perfectly acceptable to use them on any road unlit by street lamps and on dual carriageways and motorways during the hours of darkness.
Full beam headlights symbol
When your full beam headlights are activated, a blue symbol will illuminate on your cars dashboard. This symbol is used to make you aware of full beams so you can switch to dipped headlights when necessary. See dashboard warning lights for common symbols including the full beam headlights symbol.
High / main beam headlight laws
Dazzling other road users and not switching to dipped headlights at the appropriate time is hazardous and can potentially cause accidents. Driving with only one dipped headlight has it’s own dangers, it is however safer for other road users to drive with only a single dipped headlight and not full beam headlights.
There are no penalties directly associated with main beam headlights. Inappropriate use where putting others at risk may however see a driver charged with possibly driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable consideration for other road users, both having penalty points of 3 to 9 and a fine imposed by a court.
Dazzled by another vehicle
Another vehicles headlights can dazzle you at night. Even dipped headlights can dazzle if a vehicle is rounding a corner or moving over a crest of a hill. If you are dazzled by headlights, avoid staring at the light and slow down or stop if necessary.