Imagine getting out of work, around 6 o’clock PM. The Rhode Island sun is still high enough where it isn’t dark yet, so you can clearly see ahead of you while you’re driving…until you make that left turn that forces you to stare right into the sun. It’s a deceptively dangerous situation that all of us have been in that can lead to a car accident. There is one simple thing that drivers can do as a best practice that may help you stay safe: put your headlights on. Especially just before dusk, or in a wooded area, the shadows and lights work in strange ways that can make it tough to see a car coming. If the vehicle to your left has its headlights on, though, it may be substantially easier to see.
Although studies have produced mixed results about whether daytime headlights reduce crash rates overall, a recent study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, found that “the presence of [daytime headlights] reduces daytime multiple-vehicle crashes, especially head-on and front-corner collisions where vehicle conspicuity is a concern . . . studies have found a reduction of 5 to 10 percent.” The point being, if conditions make it difficult to see other vehicles — no matter what time of day — then using headlights may help decrease collisions.
RI law already requires that drivers use their headlights from sunset to sunrise, when using their windshield wipers due to rain, sleet, snow, hail or other unfavorable weather conditions, or when there is insufficient light or visibility to see 500 feet ahead. R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-24-1.
While many RI car accidents are preventable, sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t make it easy for us. A simple thing like keeping your headlights on during low visibility conditions, even in the daytime, may just end up preventing a head-on collision.