Are you puzzled whenever you hear the term ‘parking lights’, as the very notion of any light being left on after a vehicle is parked seems absurd to you? Have you ever wondered about the purpose of the additional LED bulbs located adjacent to your car’s main headlamps, which you know for sure are not indicator lights? WheelZine clears all your doubts about parking lights.
Making Room for the New
Some of the newer cars of top automobile manufacturers, like Volkswagen, General Motors, Volvo, and many others, come fitted with what are known as daytime running lights. These remain switched on for as long as the car’s engine runs, and therefore, they render parking lights (that are used more often nowadays as daytime lights) somewhat obsolete.
The question of the actual purpose behind the existence of parking lights in automobiles is hardly a new one. In fact for a number of years now, people from all over the world have wondered about their utility and relevance. With driving laws and moreover the structure of roads themselves differing from country to country, the modern definition of the term ‘parking lights’ has become both dated as well as sketchy.
After looking into the origins and history of this mysterious device enhancement that is present on literally every car manufactured since time immemorial, as well as acquiring an insight into driving practices across the globe, we have made an attempt to satisfactorily answer the completely baffling question- what are parking lights used for?
The Original Purpose of Parking Lights
Back in the ’60s, and even earlier, the streets were not as broad as they are today, and street lights too were scarce. Therefore, it became absolutely essential to keep the parking lights of one’s car switched on whenever it was parked on the side of a narrow road at night, so as to ensure that it was visible to other drivers passing by.
During those days, the wiring of the parking lights, also known as sidelights, was independent of the headlamps of the car. They were located towards the side, rather than towards the front of the car, and were dim lamps that did not consume much battery. It was also possible to switch on the sidelights or parking lights on only one side of the car.
Current Relevance and Common Uses
Any car manufactured in or after the ’70s has common wiring for its headlights and parking lights. It is also not possible to individually switch on parking lights on any one side in newer cars. The exact location of the parking lights varies from car to car.
• In most vehicles though, they maintain their traditional position, i.e., at the outer side of the headlights.
• In some cars, the parking lights use the same bulbs as the blinkers that are occasionally used along with the car’s headlights.
• There are also cars that have parking lights located on the inner side, and some in which you can find them below the headlamps.
How to Switch On Your Car’s Parking Lights
In most modern cars, the switches that turn on and off the turning indicators, glaring headlights, city lights, parking lights, and fog lamps are all located on a common handle/knob-like device, that can be found at the side of the steering wheel inside the car. Generally, turning the knob to the first setting switches on the parking lights, while the second setting turns on the car’s headlights.
Situations Where Parking Lights Are Used
• Parking lights have become irrelevant in terms of their conventional use, owing to broader and sufficiently lit roads. Generally nowadays, if one parks or stops at the side of the road, the hazard indicator of the car is used in place of the parking lights, in spite of the fact that the use of parking lights is a low-battery-consuming alternative.
• Parking lights can be quite helpful to drivers who require only a minimal amount of light, to help them park in their own private garage or parking space, and do not want to draw attention to themselves by blaring the bright headlamps.
• These lights are also used in low-light driving, such as during twilight hours, and nowadays, they double up as daylight lamps. The question of battery car consumption does not arise when the car’s engine is running.
Driving Regulations About Parking Lights
Some of the motor laws concerning the use of parking lights are quite interesting. In the UK, a regulation that still exists addresses the question of parking at night, and it goes to state,
All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph (48 km/h).
In some parts of the USA, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with the parking lights switched on, and violating this could result in being charged a ticket. In some states, this rule applies only to night driving, and the use of parking lights as daytime lights is, in fact, encouraged. A law worded along these lines is a part of the motor regulations of most states:
No vehicle shall be driven at any time with the parking lamps lighted, except when the lamps are being used as turn signal lamps, or when the headlamps are also lighted.
Before switching on the parking lights, or in fact any lights of your car, always make sure you are familiar with the local driving norms. Apart from being charged a fine if you break the law, you will also be putting your precious car as well as your own self at risk especially if it is dark outside. Use parking lights only when required, and drive safely.