Widely misunderstood term “rolling fire” – Lake Cowichan Gazette


“Are you allowed to drive with the headlights and high beams on at the same time?” asks a reader. The question was prompted by this person’s complaint of being blinded by the lights of many vehicles today. These vehicles display two headlights and two of what many people assume to be high beams.

What is a driving light?

According to vehicle lighting expert Dan Stern, “driving lamp” or “driving light” is a widely misunderstood term. People use it to refer to all kinds of different lights. It looks like some kind of lamp that you can use every time you drive, but it’s not.

In fact, the high beams are auxiliary high beams. They are designed to increase the range of the high beams. Unlike low beams, their lights are not designed to control glare at all, and therefore high beams are only effective, safe and legal for use with the vehicle’s main high beams on dark roads and empty (or off-road).

Never with dipped headlights, never alone, never in traffic, never in bad weather and never within dazzling distance of other vehicles in front, in both directions.

High beam identification

High beams are identified by the SAE-Y markings on North American lamps or the letters HR above the circle containing the E on European lamps. You are allowed to install two which should show a white light.

Mount and aim

Driving lights should be mounted between 40cm and 1.06m from ground level and aimed so that the high intensity part of the beam is, at a distance of 8m from the light, at least 12cm below the height of the light and, at a distance of 25 m from the light, not more than 1.06 m from the roadway. The side sight is +/- 150 mm at a distance of 7.62 m from the lamp.

All measurements are made at the center of the lamp.

Wiring and Operation

Also, these lights must be wired so that they only come on when the high beams are on. This is usually accomplished through the use of a relay which is triggered when the headlights are switched to high beam. This would mean that a driver would turn off the high beams within 150m of another approached or overtaken vehicle.

Lamp glare

Eliminating glare from high beams is the ultimate responsibility of the driver of the vehicle using them. Keeping them clean and properly fitted will solve many complaints and mitigating 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 light is not federally regulated through Transport Canada.

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