Shedding light on winter driving |

Shedding light on winter driving

Kefren Tester

Daylight Saving Time ended on Nov. 5. For the next few months, your evening commute will take place during night hours.

Night driving in the Roaring Fork Valley can be challenging when factoring in winter weather and wildlife migration. For those of you who have corrective lens restrictions on your Colorado driver’s license, you might notice your night vision isn’t as good as it used to be. Fall is a good time to set up a routine vision exam and make sure your seeing sharply for your nightly commute.

So when exactly are you required to have your forward headlamps activated?

Colorado Revised Statutes state the following:

• C.R.S. 42-4-204 (1): Every vehicle upon a highway within this state between sunset and sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead, shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as required by this article.

If traveling during heavy precipitation or fog, make sure your forward headlamps are activated. A good rule of thumb is: “Wipers on? Lights on.” Many sport utility vehicles are equipped with auxiliary spotlamps and fog lamps. Colorado law restricts the use of these auxiliary lamps to no more than two in quantity.

Over the years I’ve been asked if there are any specific laws pertaining to the use of high beams. The answer is yes. Your forward headlamps must be able to be toggled “at will” between “distributions of light projected to different elevations.” Simply put, your low beam/high beam switch should function properly.

Driving with your headlamps on permanent high beam mode is a statute violation and a severe hazard to other motorists. There are specific laws pertaining to dimming your high beams for oncoming traffic, and for traffic traveling ahead of you in the same direction.

Colorado Revised Statutes state the following:

• C.R.S. 42-4-217 (1)(a): Whenever a driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light or composite beam so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.

• C.R.S. 42-4-217 (1)(b): Whenever the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 200 feet to the rear, except when engaged in the act of overtaking and passing, such driver shall use a distribution of light permissible under this title.

In summary, dim you lights for oncoming traffic at 500 feet, and for same-direction traffic at 200 feet. Keep in mind when driving on bumpy roads, oncoming traffic may appear to be flashing high beams at you; but in reality, they are just traveling over an uneven road surface. A “war of high beams” temporarily blinds two motorists instead of one. With regard to taillamps, Colorado law requires they be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.

What are some safety tips for improved night driving this winter? Consider the following recommendations by the National Safety Council:

• Make sure your headlamps are clean. Take time to wipe off dirt, grime and deicing agents such as magnesium chloride.

• Dim your dashboard lights. This is an old trick long-distance truck drivers have used for years.

• Look away from oncoming lights while maintaining focus on your travel lane.

• Consider an antireflective coating on your next pair of prescription eye glasses.

• Keep your windshield clean for maximum field of view. Those pesky corners where the wipers don’t reach are exactly the spot where deer and elk seem to hide.

• Reduce your speed and increase your following distance. This is sound advice day or night.

Finally, never operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself: “is it worth the loss of a life?”

Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol’s Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs. The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.

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