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Oct 21, 2019

5 min. read

How to see and be seen on winter roads.

The changing season means shorter days. Those extra hours of darkness make proper use of headlights, taillights and high beams absolutely critical. You need to see where you’re going—and you need to be seen by other motorists and pedestrians. Improper light use during bad weather or conditions with reduced visibility can also increase your chance of a collision. But fear not! A few basics and a little upkeep and care can light the way to safer driving.

When to use. Under Manitoba law, headlights must be switched on half an hour before sunset and remain on 30 minutes after sunrise—or when visibility dips below 60 metres. This might occur if there’s snow, rain or fog. To be safe though, Manitoba Public Insurance suggests keeping lights on whenever you drive.

Shine a light. Vehicles with automatic headlights have sensors to determine if you are in low light—like in a parking garage or sudden storm—and the lights will turn on. Automatic headlights are different than daytime running lights, which always illuminate when a vehicle is in operation, but are more dim and don’t illuminate the road like headlights.

High beams. When driving outside urban areas, high beams improve your range of sight, but they can also blind oncoming motorists. Dim lights about 450 metres from approaching vehicles and 60 metres when following. And do not look at the high beams of approaching traffic. In fog and snow, it’s better not to use high beams, which can amplify the appearance of flakes and mist.

Keep lights clean. Use a damp cloth to wipe them every week. Over time, plastic covers can break down and become cloudy, degrading light performance by up to 75 percent. Clean them with a headlight restoration kit or have them restored at a select CAA Approved Auto Repair Services facility.

Maintain them. Once a month, make sure all of your vehicle lights are operational. And every 20,000 kilometres, ask your trusted repair shop to check if the headlights need to be adjusted to ensure they’re properly pointed at the right angle. (Suspension settling and changes over time can affect the headlight aim.)

Trailer how-to. If you pull a trailer, confirm that its tail, brake and signal lights work properly. Check them when you hook up the trailer and again when you stop for fuel. The lights are crucial for those following you. On older trailers, look for any corroded wires and repair or replace as necessary.

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