By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
As drivers we all like to think we know and follow every road rule out there, but when it comes to using the appropriate car lights, from time to time, many motorists are guilty of getting their options mixed up.
Drivers have a few options in choosing what car lights to use – including regular headlights, high beams, fog lights and daytime running lights.
But what may seem like a simple mistake in picking the wrong one could actually end up costing you hundreds of dollars.
What Are Fog Lights?
Fog lights differ from your car’s main headlight beam and rear-end lights in that they are normally set lower in the front or rear bumpers.
Many vehicles have fog lights both at the front and rear which are operated independently of the headlights.
The Function of Fog Lights
When it comes to using your fog lights, it’s important to remember the function of them.
Specifically, your front and rear fog lights are designed to be used in foggy or rainy conditions that may limit a driver’s vision.
As such, front fog lights are fixed lower down on the vehicle and are angled downwards at a steeper perspective than normal headlights.
They emanate a flat horizontal beam that reduces the amount of light that reflects back off the fog. This enables better brightness and visibility.
However, if these lights are switched on whilst driving in normal weather conditions, they can be a serious hazard to other drivers on the road by causing forthcoming vehicles to be briefly blinded by the lights.
Equally, they can lead to accidents from the rear-end due to motorists misidentifying the bright red fog lights for brake lights.
When Are You Permitted to Use Your Fog Lights In NSW?
The NSW Centre for Road Safety advises that under normal conditions, fog lights may “dazzle” other drivers.
As such, in NSW, a driver is only permitted to use their fog lights if driving in fog, mist or another atmospheric condition that restricts visibility.
However, fog lights are also allowed to be switched on in other situations, day or night, where visibility is impacted by adverse climatic conditions. These may include heavy rain storms, low cloud, smoke, dust, or snowfall.
Given that fog lights have the potential to blind other drivers and are a nuisance when left on unnecessary, it is important that they are used only in the appropriate conditions and not simply day-to-day driving.
The Roads and Maritime Services makes this clear and states that:
“Front and rear fog lights must only be used in fog or rain, or when conditions such as smoke and dust limit your vision.
It is a legal requirement that once conditions improve and you can see more clearly, the front and rear fog lights are switched off.
If your vehicle is not fitted with fog lights you may use your headlights during the day in these adverse conditions.”
What are the Penalties for Using Your Fog Lights When It’s Not Foggy in NSW?
In NSW, the oversight of turning your fog lights on at the start of a drive and forgetting to turn them off once the fog has cleared could leave you with an on-the-spot fine of $112.
If the matter is court-elected to be heard before a Local Court Magistrate for determination, then upon a finding of guilty or plea of guilty, the court can impose a penalty of up to $2,200 fine unless the Magistrate is convinced to impose a non-conviction penalty, such as section 10(1)(a) dismissal or non-conviction Conditional Release Order. If the court imposes any of these two types of non-conviction penalties, there will be no fine imposed.
Rule 218-1(a) Road Rules 2014 (NSW) outlines the law on using a fog light. It prohibits any driver of a vehicle from using the vehicle’s fog light unless driving in mist, fog or other atmospheric conditions that restrict visibility.
Leaving fog lights on has the potential to cause preventable traffic accidents and issues and as such every state in Australia has laws prohibiting their use other than in the conditions they were made for.
Further, a driver is prohibited from driving a vehicle in darkness under Rule 215-1 Road Rules 214 (NSW).
A driver is also prohibited from driving a vehicle with it’s high-beam headlights on while driving less than 200 metres behind another vehicle travelling in the same direction or less than 200 metres from any other oncoming vehicle (Rule 218(1)(a) and (b) Road Rules (NSW)).
Anyone in breach of the above rules will face an on-the-spot fine of $112 in addition to 1 demerit point.
How to Tell if Your Fog Lights are On
If you are inside your car, it can be hard to tell which light setting you have switched on simply by observing the beam you are emitting.
However, as the NRMA highlights, most vehicles have an icon that will appear illuminated on the dashboard depicting a headlight beam with what looks to be a squiggle running through it.
In general, when the light is green or blue, this signals the front fog lights are on. When it appears as orange, this specifies that the rear fog lights are on.
In most cars, the same fog light symbol is also printed on your indicator. If the arrow on the indicator points next to it then the lights are on.
If you are still uncertain about each symbol it is best to check by parking your vehicle and observing the different beams by switching between light settings.
Do you have a question? We are available 24/7 with traffic defence lawyers in Parramatta, Sydney and 6 other locations in NSW for your convenience.