Car lights - are they all working?

AA warns of 'one-eyed monsters' that bite in the dark

Driving with blown bulb is illegal and could result in fine or penalty points

Driving with blown bulb is illegal and could result in fine or penalty points

Poor visibility in fog is one of the greatest fears of motorists* yet AA patrols report seeing many drivers dicing with death by driving with defective lights.

Recent freezing fog should serve as a reminder to all drivers to check their lights, ensure they’re clean and have spare bulbs handy.

The so-called ‘one-eyed monsters’ can look like a motorbike from a distance making judging gaps and overtaking a real hazard, as well as risking being hit following a breakdown.  Broken brake lights also give drivers behind less time to react.

we’ve even seen cars with just one light in four working – both tail lights and a headlight gone – which is crazy

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year

A common sight on the roads

Andy Smith, AA patrol of the year, says: “At this time of year, cars with a blown bulb are a common sight on the roads but in foggy conditions, it’s even more crucial to see and be seen. Driving with a defective light is illegal and risky but we’ve even seen cars with just one light in four working – both tail lights and a headlight gone – which is crazy.

“You should regularly check all the lights, ideally every day, not forgetting fog and reversing lights, full-beam headlights, brake lights and indicators.  You can get someone to help or reverse up to a wall to check the rears. It only takes a minute but could potentially save your life.

“The fault often occurs because of a blown bulb or because corrosion has built up on the terminals. However, it could also mean an electrical problem, so if in doubt, it is best to get it checked at a garage.”

As well as an MOT failure, driving with a faulty or damaged light could mean a fixed penalty notice, or three points on the driving licence plus a bigger fine if it goes to court. Drivers who cause a fatal or serious accident due to faulty lights could face harsher penalties, including a possible prison sentence.

Clear vision

Andy Smith says: “Even if your lights are working fine, remember to regularly clean them, as they quickly get caked in winter grime. To reduce glare, give the windscreen a thorough clean too – inside and out.

“Top up the windscreen wash with a proper winter additive and run your finger down the wiper blades to check for nicks and tears. New blades and windscreen wash often don’t cost a lot but make a real difference during winter.”

Driving in fog

Andy Smith says: “Be extra vigilant when driving in fog, as it can catch you unawares, especially when it’s dark. Keep your speed down and maintain a bigger gap – at least three seconds – between you and the vehicle in front. Use your fog lights responsibly and switch them off – front and rear – when there’s a consistent improvement in visibility.”

More advice about driving in fog »

Checking your lights

  • Check all lights at least once every fortnight but ideally every day
  • Don't forget fog and reversing lights, full-beam headlights, indicators and numberplate lights
  • Check rear lights by reversing up close to a wall, checking the reflection in a window, or by asking someone to help
  • A failed headlight won't always be apparent from the driver's seat. Check front lights by pulling up close to a wall or garage door, checking the reflection in a window, or by asking someone to help
  • Keep lights clean for best vision and visibility. In wintry weather they may need cleaning every day
  • Carry a spare bulb set in the car
  • Some bulbs can be replaced easily but where access to light units is restricted or space is tight, specialist help may be required
  • Check the car handbook carefully before attempting to change a bulb - if in doubt, take the car to a garage

(12 December 2012)

* Source: Populus interviewed 11,388 between 24-28 October 2008. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

 

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