Car Care: Okay to illuminate, but not to dazzle
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David wants to know the current regulations surrounding vehicle lighting in general and fog lights in particular.
He feels fog lights and daytime running lights are often confused and therefore, used at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. According to the NZTA website, problems with vehicle lighting contribute to around seven deaths and 88 injuries on our roads every year.
Inadequate lighting can make it difficult for a driver to see, and for their vehicle to be seen especially at night. However, lights that are too bright, incorrectly fitted or poorly aligned can be just as dangerous.
The law states vehicle lights must not dazzle, confuse or distract other road users and sets out how many and when you can use some types of vehicle lights.
Listed below is a summary of the current rules around what we consider to be the main areas of vehicle lighting.
Vehicle lighting retailers are required to sell lamps which meet approved standards and are fit for the purpose for which they are intended. Be careful if you buy on-line, as you will need to ensure any purchase complies with NZ law.
To help improve headlamp performance, high-efficiency bulbs can be used. However, these bulbs must be of a similar type and wattage to the original bulbs.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) kits (an HID bulb with a high voltage power unit or ‘ballast’ which fits into the original headlight unit in place of the original bulb only, and with no other changes) are illegal on any vehicle being used on NZ roads. However, a complete halogen headlamp unit can be replaced with a complete HID unit provided it complies with approved standards.
All vehicles are fitted with either one or two dipped beam headlamps as original equipment. You cannot fit any additional dipped beam headlamps to a vehicle. They must also be white or amber in colour and should always be used in hours of darkness and/or whenever visibility is poor.
Main beam headlights
Are used for lighting the way ahead but they must be switched to dipped beam as soon as drivers notice other vehicles ahead to avoid dazzling them.
Most motorcycles, cars and trucks are fitted with either one or two main beam headlights as original equipment and they must also be white or amber in colour.
You may fit additional main beam headlamps (driving lamps) as long as you don’t have more than the maximum allowed for that type of vehicle. All vehicles except motorcycles may have up to four main beam headlamps (motorcycles may have up to two).
Front fog lamps
They produce a short wide beam of light that is designed to shine through fog, lighting up the area directly in front of the vehicle and also helping to see the sides of the road better. A vehicle may have up to two front fog lamps fitted only, and it is against the law to use them in clear conditions (day or night) as they can dazzle other road users.
They must be wired so that they can be turned on or off independently of the headlamps.
Rear fog lights
A maximum of two only is allowed and it’s against the law to use them in clear conditions (day or night) as they can dazzle other road users and they must be red in colour.
They must be wired to work independently of the tail lamps.
Daytime running lights
These are optional lamps fitted to the front of a vehicle to make it more conspicuous in daylight. They have a low light output and are not bright enough to illuminate the road ahead. A vehicle can have up to two daytime running lamps only and they should be white or amber in colour.
It’s an owner’s responsibility to make sure their vehicle lights are all working as they should, kept clean and in good condition at all times.