Some road rules about lights

Sunday, April 26th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Consider this road rule:

215. Using lights when driving at night or in hazardous weather conditions
     (1) A driver must not drive at night, or in hazardous weather
          conditions causing reduced visibility unless -
         (a) the headlights, tail lights and number plate light fitted to
             the driver's vehicle are operating effectively and are clearly
             visible; and
         (b) if the vehicle is fitted with clearance lights or side marker
             lights - those lights are operating effectively and are clearly
             visible.

And the accompanying definition from the dictionary:

night means the period between sunset on one day and sunrise on the next day.

This means that in Melbourne tomorrow you must not drive your car after 5:38PM without turning on your headlights.

The other aspects of this rule is about weather causing reduced visibility. I have yet to find a clear definition of this, but to me this is situtations where fog makes it hard to see, rain (even very light rain) makes it hard to see, heavy cloud cover makes it hard to see, etc.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because as a road user (both as a cyclist and car driver) I see a large proportion of other road users that do not know this rule. This is important because at night in busy traffic, what is the difference between a gap in the traffic and an idiot without their headlights on?

I don’t understand is that these people are driving along without realising that most of the other cars around them have their headlights on. However there are people that are worse. They are the people that turn on their parking lights and think that it is enough. I was about to say that these are the real idiots, but then I thought about driving lights.

These are the lights fitted below the headlights. If they are fog lights (yellow or white) they can ONLY be used when there is fog, if they are driving lights then they are actually considered high-beam lights, Vicroads has an entire page about them.

Hold on. I see people having driving lights on at the same time as their low-beam headlights and also with only the parking lights on. The vehicle standard says that these are to be wired so that they can only be switched on with the high-beam headlights.

Two possible answers to that: thousands of people are driving around in unroadworthy vehicles, or they are not actually driving lights. If the latter, what are they? Are they daytime running lights (what Volvo’s have had for 40+ years) that are automatically turned on when the car is turned on? But then why do they have a manual switch?

So, as well as confirming my suspicion that a large number of drivers don’t know the rules, I have raised some other questions, but I have corrected an assumption of my own as I thought the rule was that you couldn’t use high-beam headlights in build up areas. You can, as long as there is not another vehicle within 200 metres:

218. Using headlights on high-beam
     (1) The driver of a vehicle must not use the vehicle's headlights
         on high-beam, or allow the vehicle’s headlights to be used on
         high-beam, if the driver is driving -
         (a) less than 200 metres behind a vehicle travelling in the
             same direction as the driver; or
         (b) less than 200 metres from an oncoming vehicle.

However, as there are still a lot of people that do not consider a bicycle to be another vehicle…

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2 Responses to “Some road rules about lights”

  1. Sounds like you’ve had a tough week on your bike. I found this good resource on bike lights: http://www.mechbgon.com/visibility/limits.html. The last page ‘Visibility doesn’t guarantee safety’ echos what you’ve found.

    Most of the lights you mention would fall under the category of fog lights. Our car has them and there are two stages; front lights only then front and rear fog lights.

    hamish - April 27th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

  2. There wasn’t any specific in regard to lights, it is just observations since daylight saving ended and I have been riding home (more) in the dark.

    On the subject of bicycle lights I was looking at possible replacements for my current lights and I found this setup using four Fenix torches: http://www.ruscelli.com/biking_fenix.htm

    Stephen - April 27th, 2009 at 10:39 pm