You are driving through town at night when you’re caught by surprise. A jaywalker seemingly appeared out of nowhere. You swerve to avoid them and just barely avoid a collision. How did this happen? Why wasn’t the pedestrian visible until the last instant?? It could be due to limitations of vehicle headlights.


Your headlights have a maximum effective range. Beyond that range, the illumination is so weak that you gain no benefits to visibility.

For most standard car headlights, this range is about 200 ft in a narrow cone in front of the car. If you are using high beam (brights), this range extends to about 500 ft, and the cone of illumination tends to be a bit wider, allowing you to see both shoulders of the road.

While most new cars start with a 200 ft illumination range, that deteriorates over time. As you use your headlights over months and years, a soot-like deposit forms on the inside of the bulb, making it harder for light to pass through. Dirty headlight covers and hard water stains can also reduce the effective range. If you are not careful, you could lose half your nighttime visibility due to unmonitored maintenance issues.


Limited visibility and high speeds don’t mix. Vehicles typically need 100 ft of braking distance for each 10mph increment.

That means if you are traveling at 45 mph, you need about 450 ft of braking distance to come to a safe stop. But if your headlights only show you road hazards within 200 ft, you are much more likely to either lose control or cause a serious crash.

AThe solution to the problem posed by the limitations of headlights is to drive at safe speeds for the conditions. When you are driving at night, you can’t be sure what is beyond the range of your headlights. For that reason, you need to drive defensively, slow down, and be prepared to act if any hazards should appear.

To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Walnut Creek personal injury attorney from Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (925) 275-5592 or send us an email.