4 “light” tips for safety in the winter months

As the winter months get closer, the days get shorter.  You will be using your lights more and more. Here are a few “light” tips that will help you drive safely this winter.

Turn them on

I don’t know how many times I drive around at night and see a vehicle that doesn’t have their lights on. I live in a large city with a lot of city lights.  The fact that most new vehicles have daytime running lights doesn’t help. The problem is that your daytime running lights help you see in front of you, but they don’t help people behind you to see you. Remember to turn on your marker and headlights for your safety on the road. You never know when disaster might strike if someone doesn’t see you.

Turn them off

Car with it's lights left on

A car sitting empty with it’s lights left on in a parking lot

Just as important as turning them on you will want to remember to turn them off. Just today I parked in a parking lot next to a car with the lights on. I waited about 10 minutes to see if the lights would go off, but they didn’t. Some newer vehicles have automatic lights, but many don’t. If left on, the lights could drain your battery. If your battery is old and nearing its end of life battery drain can happen faster. Also, cold temps are hard on batteries. For your safety, remember to turn off those headlights when you turn off the vehicle and you won’t have to look for someone to help jump start your vehicle.

Another one to remember to turn off is the dome light or map light. The day after I saw the above car I got to work before the sunrise. In the parking lot was a car with the dome light on. The person turned off their vehicle and then needed to find something in the dark. They turned on the dome light and found it. Then they opened the door and since the dome light comes on with the door open they didn’t think anything of it. They shut the door, locked it with their key fob and walked away. With many new cars having a dimming effect of the lights after the door shuts they didn’t think much of the light still being on after the door shut. Thirty minutes later when I came in the lights were still on. Even though many newer cars will turn off any lights that are left on over ten minutes some do not. Don’t get stuck with a dead battery.

Clean the lenses

In the wintertime the lenses of your head lights and sometimes tail lights will get coated with road grime. This road grime cuts down the amount of light that your head lights output which reduces your visibility. Reduced visibility is a hazard for you, your passengers, the drivers around you, and any pedestrians. In the winter check the lenses on your lights (especially your headlights) to make sure they are clean and free of road grime.

Verify all lights are operational

If any lights are not operational they can impede your visibility and others visibility of you. In some states you can get a ticket for having a broken tail light or dead headlight. It is always a good idea to check your lights once a month. Head lights help you to see other vehicles, obstacles in the road, pedestrians, wild animals and other hazards. Marker lights help you to be seen from the side. Tail lights make you visible to the traffic behind you. Brake lights let others know that you are stopping. Turn signal lights convey your intentions to turn or change lanes. Reverse lights illuminate what is behind you so that you can back up in safety as well as let others know you are backing up as well. Making sure all lights are operational is important for your safety as well as the safety of others around your car.