Many new cars have the potential to be lit up like a Christmas tree, with headlights and taillights bolstered by additional illumination in the form of daytime running lights (DRLs), foglamps, driving lights and LED light bars.
Some of these lights can only be used in certain conditions and it’s an offence to use them incorrectly, which in most states can result in a fine and demerit points. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get a nasty surprise.
Front foglamps (or foglights) are mounted below the line of the headlights and emit a narrow beam designed to shine under the mist to illuminate the road surface in hazardous weather conditions such as fog, snow, heavy rain and dust storms. Rear foglights help make a vehicle easier to spot from behind in such conditions.
Front and rear foglamps can be very bright and can easily dazzle drivers, especially if they’re not aligned properly, making it illegal to drive with them on in clear conditions. Rear foglights are especially irritating to other drivers when used improperly.
According to Australian Road Rule 217, “drivers must not use front or rear foglamps unless driving in fog or other hazardous weather conditions that cause reduced visibility. They must be switched on separate from the main beam (high beam) and dipped beam (passing) headlights”.
Telling a copper that “they look cool, mate” isn’t an excuse to misuse fog lights, and neither is not realising they were on – all factory-fitted fog lights have a dashboard indicator light.
Driving lights are designed to illuminate the road over a long distance beyond the capability of the headlight beam. They’re mostly used in the country and are useful for spotting animals on the road from further away.
However, they have the potential to temporarily blind other drivers, a fact that seems lost on some jerks, who seem to think freeways are as good a place as any to illuminate the backs of our heads.
Driving lights are covered under high beam laws by Australian Road Rule 218, which states that, “drivers must not use the high beam headlights when driving less than 200 metres behind a vehicle travelling in the same direction, or less than 200 metres from an oncoming vehicle.”
Driving lights must have a separate switch and can only operate when the headlights are on high-beam.
LED LIGHT BARS
LED light bars (LLBs) are a modern style of driving light often found fitted to the front, or above the cab, of vehicles – particularly off-road 4x4s.
Their operation comes under Rule 218, along with driving lights and high beams. They’re also covered by the same Australian Design Rule (ADR13), which caused a headache for a few state authorities and until recently saw single LLB units deemed illegal in some states.
The problem with ADR13 was its statement that driving lights must be installed in pairs, but it was amended to include single LLBs as long as they:
- Are fitted symmetrically about the longitudinal centreline
- Do not exceed four in total
- Are wired in conjunction with the high beam circuit of the vehicle
- Face towards the front of the vehicle
Single LLB units are now legal across Australia, however there are still discrepancies between the states concerning where they can be fitted on a vehicle (the joys of Federation).
According to ADR13:
- the lamp/s must be installed in a way that the light produced does not cause the driver of the vehicle discomfort either directly or by reflection
- The lamps must not obstruct the driver’s view of the road.
- Light bars cannot be mounted on top of the bull bar above the bonnet line.
These rules are open to interpretation, meaning that while all states now allow for LLBs and driving lights to be installed on the bumper or grille (Figure 1 on the diagram), there are different rules for fitting them on the roof (Figure 2) or rollbar (Figure 3).
As it currently stands:
- ACT and Tasmania permit position one only
- NSW, NT, SA, Vic, WA permit positions one, two and three
- Queensland permits positions one, two and three if the rollbar is situated at the front half of the vehicle
It’s important to remember that foglamps, driving lights and LED light bars are more than just an accessory. And while they look good and help improve visibility it’s important to only use them in appropriate conditions and to always consider other road users.