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Behind-the-Wheel

Putting the use of vehicle driving lamps in the spotlight

Driving lights

A reader asked: “Are you allowed to drive with both headlights and driving lights on at the same time?"

The question was prompted by the person's complaint of being blinded by the lights of many of today's vehicles. These vehicles display two headlights and two of what many people assume to be driving lights.

According to vehicle lighting expert Dan Stern both “driving lamp" and "driving light" are widely misunderstood terms. People use them to refer to all kinds of different lights. They sound like a kind of lamp you can use whenever you're driving, but that's not the case.

In fact, driving lamps are auxiliary high beams. They're designed to add to the reach of the high beam headlights. Unlike low beams, their beams are not designed to control glare at all, so driving lamps are effective, safe, and legal only for use together with the vehicle's main high beam headlamps on dark, empty roads (or off road) — never with low beams, never by themselves, never in traffic, never in bad weather and never within glare distance of other vehicles ahead, in either direction.

Driving lights are identified by the markings SAE-Y on North American lamps or the letters HR above the circle containing the E on European lamps. You are allowed to install two of them that must display white light.

They must be mounted between 40 cm and 1.06 m from the ground level and aimed so that the high intensity portion of the beam is, at a distance of 8 m from the lamp, at least 12 cm below the height of the lamp and, at a distance of 25 m from the lamp, not higher than 1.06 m from the road surface. The lateral aim is +/- 150 mm at a distance of 7.62 m from the lamp.

All measurements are made to the centre of the lamp.

In addition, these lamps must be wired so they only come on when the high beam headlights are illuminated. This is usually accomplished through the use of a relay that is triggered when the headlights are switched to high beam.

This would mean a driver would shut off driving lights no closer than 150 m to another vehicle being approached or overtaken.

Driving lamp glare elimination is the ultimate responsibility of the driver of the vehicle using them. Keeping them clean and properly adjusted will solve many complaints and dimming them responsibly will solve most others.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the police and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, as the use of this type of lamp is not regulated by the federal government through Transport Canada.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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