Safer to drive with headlights on at all times?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

One sunny Sunday afternoon we set out on a two hour freeway trip. I noticed several cars right away with their lights on. My wife said she had read somewhere that driving with your headlights on in broad daylight was the single most important thing you could do to make your car visible and avoid accidents. I told her if I saw a dozen cars with their lights on, I'd switch mine on, too. During that two hour trip, we saw 200 cars with their lights on! Was it "Put-Your-Headlights-On-If-You-Love-The-Earth" Day and I missed the announcement? Or is it really safer to drive with the headlights on all the time?

RAY: You know, Charlie, I made a similar bet with my wife recently, and I lost, too. I think she was taking advantage of me, considering it was Ten O'Clock at night when she made the bet.

TOM: But your wife is right, Charlie. It is safer to drive with your headlights on, because it makes your car more visible.

RAY: Motorcycles always have their headlights on for that very reason. They need all the visibility they can get! And some countries, Sweden for one, require that headlights be on whenever the motor is running (I think General Electric lobbied the Swedish legislature for nine years to get this passed).

TOM: The down side is that you reduce headlight life by some degree, and decrease your mileage by a little bit due to the energy used to power the headlights. But these are fairly insignificant costs compared with the possible alternative; being hit by a cement truck.

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