As the evenings get darker earlier and winter draws in, it is more important than ever to make yourself visible when out and about on the roads. This applies whether you are driving, cycling, or walking.
Here we look at the rules relating to lights when driving at night and the night time guidance issued under the Highway Code for pedestrians and cyclists.
What lights to use when driving at night
Use of lights when driving is covered by rules 113-116 in the Highway Code.
Rule 113 specifically relates to use of lights at night. Helpful to know that night (the hours of darkness) is defined as the period between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise) in the Highway Code.
Highway Code Rule 113
- ensure all sidelights and rear registration plate lights are lit between sunset and sunrise
- use headlights at night, except on a road which has lit street lighting. These roads are generally restricted to a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise specified
- use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226).
The Highway Code goes on to state that:
- you MUST not use lights in a way that will dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders
- dipped headlights, or dim-dip if fitted, should be used at night in built-up areas and in dull daytime weather, to ensure that you can be seen
- you should keep your headlights dipped when overtaking until you are level with the other vehicle and then change to main beam, if necessary, unless this would dazzle oncoming road users
- you should slow down, and if necessary, stop, if you are dazzled by oncoming headlights
Refer to the Highway Code for full details on light requirements when driving.
What are the rules relating to use of fog lights?
At this time of year, the weather can take a turn for the worse and visibility can be impacted.
Whilst it is not a legal requirement, you may feel the need to make use of your fog lights in poor visibility. Highway Code rules state that:
- you MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced.
- you MUST switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other road users (see Rule 226).
Fog lights must not be used in good visibility as they can dazzle other road users and obscure your brake lights. You can be issued with a fixed penalty notice and fine of £30 for misuse of fog lights.
Other tips for driving safely in the dark winter months
Driving in the winter months can see additional risks added to your journey. So here are a few extra tips for driving safely over the next few months:
- make sure you carry out regular checks on your vehicle – tyre treads, tyre pressures, brake pads, batteries and windscreen wipers should all be on your list
- make sure you have good visibility before setting off – clear your windscreen of ice, frost, or snow. Also ensure that you have fully de-misted your vehicle before driving off
- slow down if you are driving in poor weather conditions. Better to take longer to arrive than have an accident on the way
- and with Christmas party season nearly upon us, remember the laws around drink driving and the continued dangers of driving the day after drinking.
How can cyclists, pedestrians and other road users keep safe at night?
It’s not just motorists who face additional dangers when using the roads at night. Cycling, walking, running or other road use can be dangerous at night, particularly if you do not have the right clothing or equipment.
Cycling at night can be dangerous if you are not visible to motorists and other road users. But there are some rules you must follow and steps you can take to improve your safety when cycling at night.
Rules 59 to 82 in the Highway Code apply to cyclists.
You should wear:
- light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light
- reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark.
- at nightyour cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85)
- white front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen.
- flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
The Highway Code also provides some general guidance to pedestrians. Including tips on how to make yourself visible to other road users
- wear or carry something light-coloured, bright, or fluorescent in poor daylight conditions
- when it is dark, use reflective materials (e.g., armbands, sashes, waistcoats, jackets, footwear), which can be seen by drivers using headlights up to three times as far away as non-reflective materials.
Whilst it remains illegal to use a privately owned electric scooter on public roads , you can use an electric scooter which is a part of one of the e-scooter trial schemes running across the UK.
If you are using one of these trial scooter schemes and are using the electric scooter at night, you’ll want to ensure you are visible to other road users.
Advice on the gov.uk site states that you should ‘wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing so that other road users can see you in daylight, poor light and in the dark.’
And whilst not a legal requirement it is highly recommended that you wear correctly sized, secure fitting cycle helmet. You must also continue to adhere to any of the rules set by the operator of the e-scooter trial.
It is important that all road users adjust their behaviour when using the roads at night or in the dark. Taking simple steps like wearing the right clothing or making sure your lights are switched on can make all the difference. We all have a responsibility to ensure road safety for all. Chat to us at Anthony Jones today if you have any questions about your insurance – we can help whatever your needs – from car or home insurance through to fleet insurance and small business insurance.