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> Driving Lights, Fog Lights, and Off-road Lights

Driving Lights, Fog Lights, and Off-road Lights

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Lighting is more than a convenience; it's critical for the safety of you and others on the road. While the Department of Transportation sets regulations for automotive lighting standards, there's always room to improve without breaking the law! Let's consider some of the other options for safely putting more light on the road or trail.

Putting more light on the road

Driving lights can be thought of as a second set of low beam headlights. They throw out light in a similar pattern, but from a different vantage. This gives them a little more distance and a slightly more focused beam pattern. While older vehicles may not be equipped with driving lights from the factory, most new vehicles offer driving lights as standard or optional equipment. Like low-beams, they're to be aimed slightly down to prevent glare. In addition to throwing more light on the road, they come in handy when you encounter inclement weather or intense fog. It's always a judgment call for safety on when to use this type of auxiliary lighting but if you can't see the road, it's probably time to turn on the driving lights as an option. For normal driving, it's perfectly legal to use driving lights along with your low beams. If you live in deer rich areas, having more light on the road at night is always welcome.

Cutting through the haze

A lot of people might erroneously refer to their driving lights as fog lights. However, fog lights are very different from driving lights. The main differences between fog lights and driving lights are the color and the light pattern. Fog lights shine in a wide pattern that doesn't travel nearly as far as a driving light does. Also, fog lights are generally amber in color. The difference in color has nothing to do with aesthetics as it's purely functional.

Light beam patterns
Light beam patterns - side view
More light beam patterns
Light beam patterns - top view

Light is measured in frequency, which our eyes interpret as color. Similar to sound waves, the lower frequency travels farther and pierces obstacles better. When you are relaxing in your home and you can hear a kid driving by with the stereo booming, what you're hearing is mostly bass (low frequency). What you don't hear well (if at all) is the higher frequencies of the "music" playing, which would be referred to as treble.

In terms of light waves, red is the low frequency that travels the farthest and pierces through obstacles (such as fog, snow, rain, and dust) the best with the least amount of glare. However red lights on the front of a vehicle are generally reserved for emergency vehicles by law. Amber colored lights are perfectly legal for lighting the front of your rig and very effective in poor weather conditions. You want the light to hit the road, not the stuff in the air.

As far as the eye can see

While fog lights are great for driving in bad weather, what about when the weather is fine and you just need the best vision possible? A good example of this is when you're going to be off-road. This is where you can light your truck up like the fourth of July if so desired!

Spot lights are just what you think they are. A bright light that shines long distances with a narrow path. Having one spotlight that you can move is useful for spot checking the trail ahead. But you're too busy actually driving the vehicle to keep having to adjust the spotlight. Rather than working a light with one hand while driving, imagine what you could do with multiple spotlights mounted high on your rig? What about when you need to light up a whole area that's closer to your truck. That's where the flood light comes in. A flood light is generally pointed closer to the vehicle and has a much wider beam pattern. One thing to keep in mind when mounting off-road lights is to check your state and local laws first. Some states require that they have a cover over them while driving on a public road.

With all of the lighting options out there, there's always room to upgrade. Whether it's upgrading your factory driving lights, adding a new set of fog lights, or lighting up the trail with some off-road lighting, the options are there to add everything you need. Having the right lighting in any given scenario can make all the difference in the world!