Fog Lights vs. High Beams

Both fog lights and high beams assist drivers when cruising down the road. They improve visibility and keep us safe. While fog lights and high beams have similarities, they’re used for different purposes.

As the name suggests, fog lights, also called fog lamps, are used during foggy and low visibility driving conditions. These lights are mounted below your regular headlights, and they’re angled downward to illuminate the road underneath the fog. While it can be challenging to see through these conditions, these lights can help a great deal.

High beams, on the other hand, are lights that increase headlight brightness for your motor vehicle. These are different from low beams, which are the standard lights that power on when starting your car. High beams are brighter and more powerful, helping to see over long distances.

All of these different lights are used in various driving conditions. To stay safe on the road, it’s important to power on the right lights. 

In this post, we’ll talk more about fog lights and high beams. We’ll explain how they work, when to use them, and the pros and cons of each.

What are Fog Lights & What Do They Do?

Mounted below your headlights, fog lights are intended to emit light below the fog. Also, being on both sides of the vehicle, they provide great coverage while driving. Unlike headlights, fog lights are aimed downward to light up the road directly in front of you. They’re also mounted very low, usually 12 to 30 inches from the ground. This also helps to supply light under the fog.

Fog lights bring along many benefits. For one, they improve visibility in foggy, rainy, snowy, or other hazardous conditions. This leads to greater safety for you and your passengers, including other cars around you. Fog lights can also reduce glare and reflections, which also leads to more safety. Lastly, these lights may enhance your peripheral vision. This can be incredibly useful when driving through a storm.

High Beams: When to Use (..and when not to)

High beam lights are used to see over long distances at night. Drivers turn on these lights when low beam headlights aren’t adequate for the driving conditions. High beams are very powerful and can project light between 350 and 500 feet. Pushing or pulling your car’s turn signal arm, located next to the steering wheel, will activate your high beams. However, some newer cars have automatic high beams that power on themselves. Using a front-facing camera, the vehicle will choose the right time to turn on the lights.

When to Use High Beams

Wondering when’s a good time to use your high beam lights? Check out the following situations where high beams may be appropriate:

  • Driving on open highways when no oncoming traffic is present
  • In rural areas with limited street lighting
  • During clear conditions with open roads

After turning on your high beams, be sure to power them off when oncoming traffic is approaching.

When to Avoid High Beams

While it may seem like a good idea to always use high beams in low visibility conditions, sometimes it should be avoided.

Here are some situations where you should avoid using your high beam headlights:

  • Whenever an oncoming vehicle is within 500 feet
  • During low visibility conditions due to rain, snow, dust, or fog
  • When driving through urban areas or well-lit streets

Given the high intensity of these lights, you should limit their use as much as possible. These powerful car headlights can significantly reduce visibility for other road users, leading to serious safety concerns.

Key Differences Between Fog Lights & High Beams

While both fog lights and high beams help you see at night, they have some differences to consider.

Beam Pattern and Light Distribution

Fog lights are meant to sit below your headlights to illuminate the road in front of you. They project a very wide beam pattern horizontally and a narrow pattern vertically. These light up the path in front of your vehicle without lighting up airborne particles in your line of sight.

While fog lights aim brightness downward, high beams lift the light and project it far into the distance. This bright light covers a much larger area compared to low beams and fog lights.

Mounting Position and Aim

As we’ve mentioned, fog lights are mounted below your main headlight assembly. They often have their own housing that sits several inches below your headlights. High beams are located within the headlight assembly and typically on the outside of your low beams.

Legal Requirements and Regulations

There are legal requirements for the use of fog lights and high beams. However, these regulations vary from state to state. Many states have a law that prohibits the use of fog lights when the weather is clear. Also, mounting them higher up on your vehicle is usually illegal, as this can pose safety issues. 

In regard to high beams, these laws also vary by state. However, many states have similar regulations. One of which is that you can’t use your high beams when oncoming traffic is within 500 feet. Secondly, it's usually illegal to use high beams when following within 200 feet of another driver.

Usage Recommendations

Fog lights and high beams have different purposes. 

It’s recommended to use fog lights when:

  • Driving in fog, rain, snow, or other adverse weather conditions
  • You can’t see less than 350 feet in front of you

We advise using high beams in the following scenarios:

  • During low visibility conditions
  • When there’s no oncoming traffic
  • In dark areas with little or no light
  • On hills and curves where road visibility is limited

Understanding when to use these lighting options can help keep you and others safe!

Fog Lights vs. High Beams: Pros and Cons

Read below to learn about the benefits and disadvantages of fog lights and high beams:

Advantages of Fog Lights

Fog lights are intended to be used in inclement weather. When it’s foggy, rainy, or snowy outside, these low-hanging lights give you more visibility on the road. If you were to use your low-beam lights in these situations, this could actually make it harder to see clearly. In fact, many drivers turn on their high beams when visibility is low during a storm, making the situation much worse. As front fog lights are less bright and they illuminate the road in front of your vehicle, this allows you to see much more effectively. Fog lights can also reduce glare!

Advantages of High Beams

When the weather is clear and the night is dark, this is a great time to use your high beams. They’re best used on open roads when visibility is low. However, while it may sound surprising, these lights should never be used in adverse weather conditions. In these situations, turn on your fog lights and possibly your hazard lights if the weather is extreme. Severe weather can make it difficult for other drivers to see your taillights and other exterior lights, so consider turning on your hazards in these circumstances. Aside from a boost in visibility, high beams can also brighten up distant objects, giving you adequate time to react. Furthermore, high beams may also give motorists more confidence when driving at night. Just be sure to turn them off when oncoming traffic gets close.

Disadvantages of Using Fog Lights Incorrectly

While fog lights are designed to be highly useful in specific situations, some considerations should be kept in mind for their optimal use. For instance, it's important to be mindful of other drivers when using fog lights in the presence of oncoming traffic, as it may cause glare and hinder their visibility. Additionally, due to their limited range of illumination, it is advisable not to solely rely on them in clear weather conditions.

We absolutely understand that many of our valued customers find fog lights helpful even in good weather, but they can certainly be a valuable asset during specific driving scenarios. However, to ensure safe and considerate usage, it's essential to be aware of the potential impact on fellow motorists and adapt their use accordingly.

Disadvantages of Using High Beams Incorrectly

As high beams can be very beneficial, they can also lead to unsafe driving conditions if used improperly. This often occurs when drivers forget to turn off their high beams, which limits visibility for oncoming traffic. Another issue is increased glare in harsh weather. This is why you should never use your high beams in foggy, rainy, or snowy conditions.

Guidelines for Proper Use of Fog Lights and High Beams

Check out the following tips for using your fog lights correctly:

  • Only use them at low speeds
  • Turn them on in fog, heavy mist, snow, and in other adverse weather
  • Ensure your fog lights never interfere with the visibility of other drivers
  • Make sure to abide by the specific fog light rules in your state

Now let’s look at some best practices for using your high beams:

  • Be considerate of others
  • Turn them off when oncoming traffic is within 500 feet
  • Never use them when riding close behind another vehicle
  • Only use high beams when necessary
  • Don't use them in suburban or well-lit areas

Following these best practices can make the road a safer, more efficient place for everyone!

Truck Lights from Specialty Performance Parts 

When used correctly, fog lights and high beams are important for improving visibility and staying safe. For your truck lights, check out SPV!