By Samuel Smith
Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Activated by a quick flick of the finger, parking lights are mostly used as an extension of motorists’ headlights.
Used alone though, they’re in a kind of luminous purgatory – noticeable at night and in poor weather conditions, but not bright enough to drive with.
So, you may ask, why do they exist?
Unsurprisingly, parking lights exist to aid parking. The idea is that they’ll make your car stand out at night, preventing fellow motorists from crashing into you.
South Australian law says you must have your front and rear parking lights turned on any time you’re parked on the road at night (or when visibility is poor) and are more than 200m away from a visible street light or lamp.
In reality though, how many times have you seen a car parked on the road with its lights left on intentionally? If you’re struggling to recall, you’re not alone.
Despite very few people actually using their parking lights, 3 people were fined in 2018 for not having them on. The unlucky motorists were set back $243 plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy.
So why is no one using their parking lights, and why are so few people being fined? The answer may lie in the past.
Back when parking lights were first put into production, street lighting was still relatively uncommon. Today, you’ll probably be parked within 200m of a light or lamp, even if you live in a rural area.
If you’re out in the country with no street lighting at all, it’s unlikely you’ll be parked directly along on the road. Chances are, you’ll have pulled into some form of driveway or rest stop.
RAA Technical Advisory Service Manager Andrew Clark warns that parking lights can also drain your battery.
“There are so many variables when it comes to batteries these days, but if you leave your parking lights on, you probably wouldn’t expect [your battery to last] more than 12 – 15 hours,” he says.
Many of us drive with our parking lights turned on without even knowing it. In most cars, they’re incorporated into the headlight switch. You’ll find this mounted to the right of your dashboard or at the end of your side indicator stalk.
Your parking lights can be switched on and off by turning your car’s headlight dial – usually one flick between completely off and on.
RAA recommends leaving your parking lights on only when necessary – that is, when you’re parked on the side of the road at night (or when visibility is poor) and are more than 200m away from a visible street light or lamp.
Note: If you’re driving a large vehicle over 2.1m wide, you must always have your clearance and side marker lights alight at night or in poor visibility.