Being able to see other vehicles is important for all road users, but darkness or bad weather can obscure people’s vision. Vehicle manufacturers include a variety of safety features to help with visibility, including tail lights. These lights are useful for helping drivers to know where others are on the road and to anticipate what they may have to do next to be able to ride safely in traffic. Keeping the tail lights working properly at all times is important for every driver.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines tail lights, also called tail lamps, as warning lights, usually red, that are mounted at the back of a vehicle. The term predates the invention of the automobile, although it referred to essentially the same concept. The idea behind these lights is to provide more visibility for vehicles on the road, especially giving drivers following others an increased chance of seeing what is ahead. In fog, snow, or heavy rain, these red lights might be the only things that drivers can see of the vehicles ahead of them.
The back sections of vehicles have various features related to keeping drivers safe on the roads. Tail lights are among the most important of these features. Normally, these lights are set on the left and right sides of the rear of a vehicle, together with the brake lights. They consist of light bulbs set behind red plastic covers which can be removed to replace any bulb that burns out. In addition, some vehicles also have reflective material around the lights to help increase their brightness.
As the website of Your Mechanic notes, tail lights are designed to turn on together with the headlights. That way, drivers need not remember to turn on a second set of lights when they start the engines of their vehicles. When the vehicle is moving, the tail lights are fairly dim and can be harder to see than when the driver applies the brakes and the lights brighten.
Types of Bulbs
These lights are wired directly to the battery and will switch on automatically in vehicles with the same option for headlights. Usually, the bulbs for these lights come in one of three types: halogen, LED, or xenon. Most vehicles come with halogen bulbs installed in the lights because they are less expensive than the other types of bulbs. They work by mixing halogen gas with filaments made of a combination of tungsten and halogen.
For many drivers, the quality of halogen bulbs is sufficient. However, as the Carparts website notes, these bulbs tend to be less durable than other varieties, lasting about two years or less in general. LED lights are another option. These bulbs are easy to install and can last years longer than halogen bulbs. They use less energy than other bulbs do and give better visibility on the road. Although they are more expensive than other bulbs, they can save money over the long term as vehicle owners can spend less money on replacing the lights.
A third, although not very popular, option is to use Xenon bulbs in a vehicle’s tail lights. Although these bulbs can provide bright lighting, they can also irritate other drivers’ eyes and can potentially distract them from the road. In addition, they can be difficult to install, besides being expensive. Still, some drivers might prefer these lights for the brightness they provide.
Purposes and Uses
One of the purposes of tail lights is to let other drivers know the sizes of the other vehicles on the road. The lights are normally set at the extreme edges of the back of a vehicle, allowing other drivers to see the height and width of other vehicles, even at night or in foggy or snowy conditions when visibility is low. This information can be useful especially for passing in the dark or in stormy weather, as drivers need to know how much space to allow so that they can avoid colliding with other vehicles.
Tail lights are especially useful in areas with large amounts of traffic, such as in cities where vehicles travel close to each other and drivers have to stop frequently for red lights, crosswalks, or for other reasons. However, they are also important on country roads and highways where the lack of street lights makes the roads darker than in the cities. Drivers should be sure to have properly functioning lights no matter where they go. One way to ensure that all lights are working is to have another person walk around the vehicle, checking the lights as the driver tests the controls.
Besides being a useful safety feature, tail lights are required on all vehicles in Ontario, as they are in other parts of Canada. However, as the Wheels.ca website notes, only one light is legally required as a minimum, to allow for older vehicles that were manufactured with only one light at the back. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the minimum of one light also applies to trailers and anything else being towed. These vehicles also require reflectors for additional visibility.
Replacing Tail Lights
Although driving with only one tail light is technically legal, it is a good idea to ensure that both the left and right lights are functioning at all times. Some vehicles also have a third light, while others have the two main ones. These lights give important information to other drivers, who might assume that a vehicle with one light is a motorcycle rather than a car or truck. Whenever one of the bulbs burns out, vehicle owners should be sure to replace them or have a mechanic do that as soon as possible.
Tail lights might seem insignificant until they stop working. However, they are important safety features in all vehicles, and it is important to keep them working well and to pay attention to them on the road. If one of these lights has burned out or is broken, vehicle owners should be careful to get it repaired as soon as possible. Having properly functioning tail lights can help road users communicate with each other and avoid accidents.