Rules of the Road: Using Your Headlights, Flashing, and High Beam

Rules of the Road: Using Your Headlights, Flashing, and High Beam

Headlights. Every car on the road needs functioning headlights. Our country’s yearly car registration renewal process requires them. While the enforcement of this renewal process is questionable, the fact that they’re required is a testament to their necessity.

Why exactly are they required? Simple. Despite having evolved over tens of thousands of years, we humans still haven’t acquired very good night vision. To compensate, our ancestors invented lights so we can stay safe even when things go dark. Fast-forward to today where we’re riding boxes of metal going at 60 kph but we still can’t see without lights. Fortunately, we have headlights (called headlamps in some countries) to help us drive in the dark.

When To Use Your Headlights

Using your headlights is all about visibility. You want to be able to see where you’re going. Driving in darkness is dangerous, so much so that it’s actually a traffic violation in many cities in the Philippines. Some countries even require headlight usage during the daytime to help drivers with poor vision see oncoming cars better. Some car companies have started to manufacture cars with daytime-running lights like the 2016 Mitsubishi Monterosport or the 2016 Toyota Fortuner V-series.

There’s no prescribed time of day to use your headlights. However, most drivers generally turn on their park lights when it’s dusk. As soon as it’s evening, drivers turn their headlights on.

While it’s not required by law, it’s also advisable to turn on your headlights when in tunnels and underpasses. You should also turn on your headlights when it’s raining hard. You can also turn on your fog lights for added visibility. No, you don’t need to turn on your hazard lights even though other drivers do. (But that’s an article for another day).


You can’t talk about headlight usage without talking about headlight flashing. Flashing is done by quickly alternating between your low beam and high beam settings. Most cars let you do this by pulling back on the turn signal stalk. Headlight flashing (more commonly referred to as “flashing”) can mean many things. Here are some of the many meanings flashing can take:

  • In situations involving right of way, the one flashing is trying to say “let me go first.”
  • In situations when there is a relatively slow driver, the one flashing is saying don’t “you’re going too slow. Go faster.”
  • In situations where one driver is about to swerve into another lane, the one flashing is trying to say “don’t cut me.”
  • In situations where one driver’s headlights are still off and it’s dark, it means “turn on your headlights”
  • In situations where one driver’s headlights are on high beam and they’re blinding others, it means “switch to low beam, I can’t see.”
  • In situations where one driver flashes another to bring their high beam down, the car being flashed can flash in return to say “my headlights are already on low beam.”

Don’t take these definitions as gospel truth. (We made a lot of them nicer than what some drivers really mean.) Sometimes, flashing can actually mean “go ahead” instead of “let me go first.” The ambiguity can lead to accidents. In general, drivers associate flashing with aggressive driving.

Some car manuals refer to flashing as the “optical horn” which suggests how you should use it. It’s for getting another driver’s attention. Like the horn (which is a topic for another article), you should use it sparingly. Using it too much makes you annoying. When you’re on the receiving end and you’re not sure what it means, stay alert and drive defensively.



Most cars headlights are set to low beam by default to illuminate what’s immediately ahead of them. They provide enough visibility for oncoming cars. When it comes to driving in cities, street lights also help provide illumination. However, for some reason, some places are still very dark despite the government’s massive budgets from the taxes they collect. Sometimes, you need to be able to see several meters ahead of you so you switch to high beam.

Using high beam helps you see farther when you’re driving into dark areas. However, when you encounter another car, it’s common courtesy to switch to low beam until you pass each other. Drivers do this so that they don’t blind oncoming traffic with their high beam. Unfortunately, many drivers neglect this, even with a high beam indicator (usually blue in color) telling them they’re on high beam.

Furthermore, driving with your headlights on high beam can blind the driver in front of you if their car is lower than yours. Unfortunately, many drivers aren’t very conscious of this either.

That’s all we have to say for headlights, flashing, and high beam. Hope you found this article enlightening!

Did we get everything? Are there other meanings of flashing that we missed? What do you think should be done about drivers who blind others with their high beam? Let us know in the comments!



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