Night Driving Etiquette on 4 lane highways

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Billicus, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. Billicus macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2002
    Charles City, Iowa
    Hi, I know this is kind of weird topic, but I've done some driving lately at night on 4 lane divided highways and I've been wondering what the procedure / proper etiquette is for high beams and oncoming traffic. If the road is sparsely populated I can certainly see better with the high beams on but I wonder if there is a specific distance I'm supposed to dim the lights at for oncoming traffic or if that is a concern in the first place. I'd appreciate some insight / thoughts.

  2. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    Depending on the state, the use of high beams is illegal, so I'd consult with that first.
  3. Billicus thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2002
    Charles City, Iowa
    I found these on the Iowa DOT website but all I wondered is if this applied to divided highways in addition to two lane roads:

  4. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    usually if i can see a car ahead of me or oncoming, ill switch to lows

    on my motorcycle, i always keep the high beams on though
  5. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
    the etiquette: Never ever, ever use high beams on a high way. Ever. Isn't that something they teach in Driver's Ed?

    High beams are for dismally lit back country roads.
  6. electroshock macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    OP: check your state's laws (as someone else suggested) then your driver's license manual.

    Be careful about using high beams on a highway -- for one thing, you'll never know when you might be unintentionally ticking off a cop! Buddy found that out the hard way and is wiser for it about $125 later. :D With that said, I don't normally use high beams on highways; usually just on back roads only.

    On smaller roads, I usually switch to low beam as soon as I see another car's headlights facing me since if I don't (or wait too long), sometimes that annoys other drivers. And at night, especially around bar closing times, I don't want to risk road rage with tipsy drivers or contribute to them losing control.
  7. RKO macrumors 6502


    Oct 21, 2008

    After looking at this, one would be safe to assume that it will be regardless of how many lanes there are on the highway. :)
  8. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    uhhhhh no

    you can use highbeams on ANY road as long as its not busy

    ive used them many times on interstates when no cars around
  9. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    400m from the car you're following in Aus, surprisingly there is no law regarding oncoming traffic though I just turn them off if I see a car coming towards me.
  10. JML42691 macrumors 68020


    Oct 24, 2007
    That may be the etiquette that you have been taught, but there are some highways where I will use headlights instinctively, and feel that I should be. These are highways like the OP described, where there is a 65mph speed limited, 10 miles between exits, 2 northbound and 2 southbound lanes and you are essentially driving through the woods. The one road that I have in mind is the northern stretch of I-89 in NH, there are some turns where you need high-beams to see a turn that seems to come extremely quickly if only using low-beams. However I will not use high-beams if there is a car in front of me that can see them.

    In means of what I follow for etiquette, if you can see their car (headlights, brake-lights) then you should be using low-beams at ALL times, I only use high-beams when I am essentially the only car on the road.

    In means of the law, I am only familiar with MA law and here it is in a article dated 2007 (so it may have changed since):
  11. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Like others have said, I use them but switch to low beams as soon as I see headlights coming at me.
  12. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    Use the high beams wherever you can down here - roos and wombats are bloody stupid. I've had friends hit a jumping roo at 110km/h in a Tarago and the damned thing ended up thrashing around in the back row all cut up from the collision.

    A wombat weighs about 6 times as much as it looks like it should, a medium one will easily knock a car over should you hit one at a decent speed.

    I guess it's kind of like deer and stuff in the US but at much, much higher numbers here judging by the difference in roadkill numbers spotted on the sides of the roads. Our highways are like long skinny killing fields.
  13. greg555 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 24, 2005
    Wow! There mustn't be much wildlife (deer, foxes, porcupines) in your ditches to drive on low beams for so long. I wait as long as possible (1/4 mile or less) before dimming so I can see what is on and beside the road.

    Here is what the Saskatchewan driver's hand book says:

    When meeting another vehicle, you must dim your headlights at least 200 m
    (650 ft.) in advance of oncoming vehicles and keep them dimmed until the
    vehicle has passed.

    Also, turn off any spotlamps at least 500 m (1,640 ft.) in advance of an
    oncoming vehicle and keep them turned off until the vehicle
    has passed.

    You are not required to dim your headlights for oncoming traffic if you are
    driving on a divided highway where the distance between the roadways is 22 m
    (70 ft.) or more.

    You must keep your headlights on low beam within 100 m (330 ft.) and keep
    any spotlamps or auxiliary driving lights turned off within 500 m (1,640 ft.)
    when you are following another vehicle, or when you are being passed.
    High beams​

    Summary: 1/8th mile for on-coming and a (Canadian) football field (330 ft) when overtaking a vehicle.

    Here's the link to the handbook ( It also talks about over-driving your headlights and dimming too soon.

  14. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    False. Hibeams are for a road with really no one on them. I have used my Hi beams on a high way before. I was going 10-15 mins with out seeing a car in either direction.

    And to answer the OP question on what to do with Hibeams is it is the same as what you do on a 2 lane road.
    Believe me on a road much like what you are talking about Hi beams from on coming traffic would still blind me if they did not dim them. There was a good 100' of space between each direction and it would still be able to blind me.
  15. FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    Common courtesy dictates that you shouldn't have them on if another car is within visible range.

    I drive a mountain road to the coast late at night quite often, and it is a 2 lane/ 4 lane state highway, very twisty and windy, with lots and lots of wildlife. Typically as soon as I see a set of headlights in the distance I'll kill my floods (if I'm in my truck), and when they get within about 1000 ft I'll kill the high beams.

    What bothers me the most is the pricks who come up behind me with their after market projector HID headlamps that have *horrible* pattern control and throw a ton of light right into my side view mirror.
  16. juanm macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2006
    Fury 161
    I just drove 32000km with my gf in Australia, and I've never seen one living wombat!! Dead, tons of them. Living, zip. They're probably as smart as roos (not very) but slower, so they get hit more. We killed a roo too, with our Pajero. By night, high beams and spotties on, 90/95Km/h south of Carnarvon, and this roo goes and jumps across the road right in front of the car. She bent the bumper a bit where she touched it, but the roo bar and underbody plate prevented further damage. We looked and she had an unfurred joey inside, but it was dead too. I'd say high beams are not only essential but it's even better to mount additional lights.
    Here in Spain, it's 300m/1000ft in front of you, and nobody coming toward you.
  17. LumbermanSVO macrumors 65816

    Mar 15, 2007
    Denton, TX
    As others have said, turn them off when you see the other car or are within 1/4 mile.

    In places with small/rolling hills please turn them off then you see the clearance lights from an oncoming truck. Just because you can't see our headlights yet doesn't mean we can't see your headlights, our heads are right below the clearance lights.

    If you are behind a truck at night please back off or pass quickly. Many people will come up behind us and follow us for miles before finally passing. meanwhile they want to see past us while tailgating so we wind up with one headlight shining in our mirror the whole time. When people do that to me I just let off the throttle/cruise and slow down until the person finally passes. Some people are so out of it that I'll get down to 40MPH before they finally pass, even in places where there is no traffic.
  18. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Something like that for me too.
  19. jzuena macrumors 6502a


    Feb 21, 2007
    Lexington, MA, USA
    Here on the east coast we have dismally lit highways, too.
  20. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    What if the highway is a dismally lit back country road?

    For example, one poster mentioned I-89 in NH. I-89 from NH all the way up through VT is 2 lanes on each side, going through woods and mountains, and there's no street lights. Exits are 10-15 miles apart. You definitely need your high beams for it.
  21. JML42691 macrumors 68020


    Oct 24, 2007
    I was the one that mentioned it, I would be hesitant to drive that road at night if I didn't have high-beams or if I had any headlights out. You are in complete darkness at night there, and there are some pretty big turns that seem to come out of nowhere. I drive that road at night 2 times a week over the summer and despite driving that stretch that often, there are stretches of the road where turns surprise me, and these aren't little turns, you miss the turn and you drop into a 20' ditch.

    Also, there are times with that road where they have had to shut down several mile stretches due to road conditions like a cliff of rock collapsing onto the road or even with a few months ago when a large sinkhole encompassed both lanes on one side of the road and the road had to be shutdown for a week for repairs. Driving at night you could easily be the first car to see the sinkhole and I know I would want to be able to see that way in advance to brake before falling into it.
  22. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    Wow! I've never heard of any state making high beams illegal. I've also driven in quite a few, and have never been ticketed for using them.

    I think if you're within 6 inches of the limit, they'll let you off. ;) I don't know what the official law is in my state (or any other) but I decide based on whether or not I can tell the oncoming cars are using high beams, and whether they dim them as we approach one another. If the brights don't bother me, I figure it's ok to leave mine on. Again, I've never been ticketed, or talked to anyone else who has been for that.

    If the divider is right next to the emergency lane, it's usually high enough to block the lights. But, that would occur in cities, where you'd have street lights. If out in the country, there might even be a stand of trees in between you and cars traveling the opposite direction.

    In short, on a divided highway, I'm more concerned with dimming my lights for the cars in front of me than those on the opposite side. I hate being blinded by lights behind me in my side mirror.


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