Headlights, fog lights, driving lights, daytime running lights. With so many lights and possible configurations, it’s no wonder lights on a vehicle, and when they can and can’t be used, is a confusing topic. We’ve explained the basics below.
This section covers:
Bicycle and scooter riders
Bike riders and scooter riders are required to have lights and a red reflector when riding at night and also be fitted with a bell or warning device. For more information see our sections on rules for bicycle riders and rules for scooter riders.
A driver must not use, or allow to be used, any light fitted to or in their vehicle to dazzle another road user, or use the light in a way that is likely to dazzle another road user.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 219.
RACV recommends that drivers have their lights checked and the headlamps re-aimed when their car is being serviced, as this is often not included as standard.
Driving lights are designed to illuminate the road over a long distance. They supplement high-beam headlights and have a similar lighting pattern. Driving lights are wired to switch on when the high-beam headlights are on and must emit a white light.
For more information on when headlights (including driving lights can be used) see the section headlights.
Daytime running lights
Daytime running lights (DRLs) are fitted to the front of a vehicle to increase its visibility to other road users during the day. They generally cannot be controlled by the driver and turn on automatically when the engine is started. Research shows that DRLs can reduce the chances of a crash during daylight hours as they make the vehicle more visible to other road users.
If you are unsure what types of lights you have fitted to your car, consult your owner’s manual. If you are still unsure and purchased your car new, contact your dealer. If you purchased your car used, consult with an auto electrician.
Fog lights have a low, flat, wide beam to illuminate the road below the fog or mist. They must be wired to switch on separately to the high-beam and low-beam headlights. Front fog lamps may emit a white or yellow coloured light.
Rear fog lights have a higher intensity light used on a vehicle to make it more easily visible from the rear in dense fog. Rear fog lights may only emit a red light. However, rear fog lights appear similar to brake lights and, when used inappropriately, may mislead other drivers into thinking that the brakes are constantly being applied.
Front or rear fog lights must not be used unless driving in fog or other hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility. This may include snowfall, heavy rain or a dust storm. During the day when there is fog or other hazardous weather conditions, headlights may be kept off if the driver is using their front fog lights. In such conditions, a driver must turn on either their headlights or front fog lights, or both.
Fog lights should not be confused with driving or daytime running lights, which may be located in a similar position on a vehicle, but have different uses.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 217.
Hazard warning lights
A driver may only use hazard warning lights if their vehicle is:
- Stopped and obstructing, or likely to obstruct other vehicles or pedestrians,
- Moving slowly and obstructing, or likely to obstruct other vehicles or pedestrians,
- Stopped in an emergency stopping lane,
- Stopped to sell a product that may attract children onto the road (such as ice creams),
- A bus carrying children, and the driver stops to pick up of drop off a child and is required or permitted to use the hazard warning lights under regulation 31(5) of the Transport (Passenger Vehicles) Regulations 2005
- Operating the hazard warning lights as part of anti-theft or alcohol interlock devices.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 221.
Headlights, number plate lights, parking lights and tail lights
Drivers must not drive at night or in hazardous weather causing reduced visibility unless their headlights, tail lights and number plate lights are operating effectively and are clearly visible. If the vehicle has side clearance lights or side marker lights (e.g. trucks), these must also be working and clearly visible.
Using headlights (including driving lights) on high beam is not allowed within 200m of an oncoming vehicle or a vehicle travelling in the same direction ahead of you. You can flash your headlights briefly to warn a vehicle ahead that you are about to overtake, but for no other purpose.
Unless parking lights (and clearance or side marker lights if fitted) are operating effectively and clearly visible, drivers can only stop on a road at night where there is street lighting and the vehicle is visible for at least 200m in all directions. But when stopped or parked legally on a length of road or in an area to which a parking control sign applies, lights may be left off.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 215 and 218.
When using a bicycle carrier on a vehicle at night, the number plate must be adequately illuminated. See the section Bicycle Carriers.
Flashing your headlights
The Road Rules state that a driver may switch their headlights to high-beam briefly to warn a vehicle ahead that they are about to overtake.
Using headlights on high beam is not allowed within 200m of an oncoming vehicle or a vehicle travelling in the same direction ahead of you.
Therefore, a driver is not allowed to flash their headlights within 200m of an oncoming vehicle to warn other drivers about a mobile speed camera.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 218.
Drivers must not use, or allow to be used, a horn or similar warning device fitted to or in the vehicle unless it is necessary to warn other roads users or animals of the approach or position of the vehicle. However, horns can be used as part of an anti-theft device or alcohol interlock fitted to the vehicle.
For more information see the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules rule 24.
For the rules that apply to motorcycles, see the section motorcycle riders.