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2015 Toyota Sienna - Headlights used wrong

I have noticed over the recent few year a lot of cars that drive 1. without headlights on at night 2. with high beams on at night while they seem completely unaware of it (e.g. in a residential area with a lot of traffic). It drives me nuts. As for the first problem, I think it is because a) more cars have dashboards that are back-lit without the lights being on that suggest the lights are on while they are not b) cars have day light running lights that give some light which makes the driver believe their lights are on c) more cars have automatic lights and the driver doesn’t realize the lights are actually fully turned off instead of in the auto on/off setting. For the second issue I have no explanation. Are you aware of any statistics backing up my subjective perception and is anything being done about it at a NTHSA level?

By the way, I have filled in my yr/make/model as it was mandatory but it has nothing to do with my question.

Thank you!


My car has headlamps that turn on and off automatically and high beams that do the same. If all cars were required by law to have these two features, most of (1)and all of (2) would be eliminated.

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All cars are trending towards auto-dimming high beams. I have not tested a car without them in a couple of years. As to developments at NHTSA, its more like how soon will NHTSA just get out of the way. Here’s some background. Headlight tech is so far beyond what we have in the U.S. it is silly.

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My car has automatic headlights but not automatic high beams. The Mrs. just got a vehicle with automatic headlights but because she’s not used to daylight running lights she turns them on manually during the day. I figure the car knows what it’s doing.

NY State has a law requiring headlights on when it is raining. If it is not dark enough for the car to turn on the headlights, you are running down the road with just the DRLs which do not satisfy the law and don’t light up the tail or side lights. This make a gray car difficult to see when approached from the side or rear in the rain.

Observing the many, many cars operating in heavy rainstorms with front lights and no tail lights, it has ro be darker than you think to turn on the automatic headlights.

I have automatic headlights but never have them set on automatic. If it is even just overcast, I turn on my headlights. How can it not be in my interest for other people to see me.

To quote yogi Berra: if all cars had headlights on all the time, you would never see them after awhile.

Partly true, 'cause one eventually considers it part of the background noise. However, I was turning onto a highway yesterday while facing the late afternoon sun and it was very useful to be able to see the DRLs of the cars coming down the road. Some cars didn’t have them and they were very hard to see.

Missouri has a similar law. Wipers on=lights on. However, under normal circumstances I find that my car’s automatic headlights work well the majority of the time, which is good since that function can’t be defeated.

Are you sure ? Both of our cars have auto lights but I can turn on the headlights anytime I want to .

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Yes, I’m absolutely sure I can’t prevent the car from turning on the headlights short of disconnecting them. That’s what can’t be defeated means.

Are you talking about the Daytime Running lights ?

No. The headlights come on when the car decides it’s dark enough. AFAIK there’s no way to prevent it. I certainly couldn’t find anything in the owner’s manual. I can turn them on manually but I can’t keep the car from turning them on.

Why would you want to ?

No idea. @oldtimer_11 mentioned that he has automatic headlights turned off and I was following up on that. The Mrs. also prefers to leave her headlights on manual. I don’t get it either.

I’m noticing those concerns too. The apparent mis-use of high beams though might be just that newer cars use very bright-white headlights which don’t seem much different in apparent brightness & glare to oncoming traffic when on low, compared to older car’s yellowish lights on high.

I don’t know why you’d want to either but to turn the auto headlights off, you simply move the switch to “off”. My Pontiac is more sensitive to light than my Acura. The Pontiac lights will go on when it is just cloudy, but the Acura has to be pretty much dusk. I often have to turn them on manually in bad weather. No way to adjust the sensitivity that I know of.

That doesn’t work with my car. If the switch is “off” the lights still come on when it’s dark enough. I can’t shut the feature off and I can’t change the sensitivity.

Dave, when it is dark you should have the headlights on. Some states have laws stating lights on 30 minutes before sunset . I really have no idea what you think is a problem .

I rented a new Corolla over the summer and couldn’t figure out how the headlight switched worked. When I turned the switch to “on” the headlights would go off … lol . seriously, not making this up. Another poster here offered an explanation but can’t recall what the logic is.

I recently rented a 2019 Nissan Sentra from Hertz. I was informed it had the auto headlights that I could just leave on. When it got to twilight when I would normally turn them on they didn’t. Instead of consulting the owner manual to see if they could be adjusted I just turned them on. I can appreciate some technology but could do without most of it. I sometimes long for my 1957 Chevy bone stock 2 door sedan. 235 cu in I6 3 speed M/T. I paid $100 for it in 1968. Nothing wrong with it! Lacking maintenance history I replaced points, rotor, condenser, cap, wires and spark plugs. Changed oil and filter and checked differential, transmission, and brake fluid levels. I drove it for over 2 years without any problems.