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As the winter nights get longer and darker, we inevitably use our headlights more than in the summer, but in Spain, there are also times when headlights are mandatory during the day.

Before we explain five situations where headlights are required, it is also important to note that modern cars have lights which automatically illuminate during the day. These are called Daytime Running Lights, and their point is to make the vehicle more visible to other road users, especially the more vulnerable. However, in the situations where headlights are required, which includes at night and in poor visibility, Daytime Running Lights are not enough. We must use headlights.

Daytime Running Lights Only Illuminate the Front
Daytime Running Lights

The reason for this is that, as we have mentioned, is that Daytime Running Lights are used to illuminate the vehicle, they are not adequate in illuminating the road in front of us, or where we are heading. In addition, generally, Daytime Running Lights only illuminate at the front of the vehicle, whereas we must also provide lights at the back, red lights, so that other road users can see us from behind.

Dipped Headlights

Some cars also have an “auto” setting for headlights. This can make things easier in many ways, but it does mean that your lights will not illuminate in certain situations where it is mandatory, so make sure you know how to use your lights and override the automatic setting so that you can turn them on.

And so, at night, in poor visibility, and in the situations we are going to explain, you must use your headlights, in their normal “dipped” beam setting. Again, this is the normal setting for your headlights, so not full beam, where the blue light illuminates on the dashboard, just the normal headlight setting, and not Position Lights, which just provide minimal illumination.

Specifically, these are the five cases in which, according to the DGT, it is mandatory to wear dipped headlights:

  1. Between sunset and sunrise: the General Circulation Regulations stipulate that “all vehicles that circulate between sunset and sunrise must have their lights on”. This of course makes sense, but it is important that, as we have said, we use headlights.
  2. In tunnels: when entering the interior of the tunnel, underpasses or sections marked with the Tunnel sign (S-5), whether during the day or at night, it is mandatory to activate the dipped beam headlights. In the event of a breakdown or incident inside a tunnel, turn off the engine and also turn on the hazard lights and position lights to indicate your position.
  3. In special lanes, reversible or in the opposite direction, contraflows. Traffic in special lanes is reserved for certain vehicles and speeds of 80 km/h cannot be exceeded. Reversible lanes are traffic lanes that are opened at the entrances to large cities on highways and motorways. In these cases, and in the enabled lanes in the opposite direction, dipped headlights are mandatory day and night. The fine for failing to comply with the Regulation amounts to 200 euro.
  4. In weather or environmental conditions of poor visibility. If it rains, snows, hails, there is fog or clouds of smoke or dust, turning on the lights is a priority. In these conditions our own visibility will be better and other road users will see us better than if we only use Daytime Running Lights. The driver who does not activate the dipped headlights may be sanctioned with a fine of 200 euro.
  5. On motorcycles. Article 104 of the General Circulation Regulations states that “motorcycles traveling on any road covered by the legislation on traffic, motor vehicle circulation and road safety must have the short-range or dipped light on during the day.” If the stipulations are not fulfilled, the driver faces a fine of 200 euro and the withdrawal of three points from the licence.

It is also mandatory to use headlights anywhere you see the blue circular sign indicating this. This sign is technically known as R-413, alumbrado de corto alcance.

Roadsign S-5 Tunnel
S-5 Tunnel
Roadsign R-413 - Headlights Mandatory
Headlights Mandatory
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