Parking lights are automotive lamps designed to increase the visibility of a car in a variety of situations. Although most nations no longer require the use of these lights, they can be extremely useful. Almost all cars are fitted with them, although they are often linked with the headlights. Formerly, parking lights were run on a different electrical system, and were intended for use when cars were parked along narrow, poorly lit roads, to alert oncoming drivers to the presence of the parked car. In some regions of the world, they still serve this function.
Except in the United States, parking lights must have clear lenses so that they emit white light. The white light is highly visible, even in poor conditions, although it is not as bright as the headlights, as the lamps and surface area covered by the lens are smaller. In the United States, such lights are frequently produced with amber lenses, to help distinguish them from red brake lights and white headlights.
Typically, a car has parking lights located on either side of the front of the car, on the outside of the headlights. They may also appear in the rear, or along the side of the vehicle to further increase visibility. In a car where these lights are separated from headlights, allowing drivers to use one or both sets, they are usually linked to the switch used for headlights, which is turned once for parking and twice for headlights.
Although parking lights are sometimes referred to as running lights, they are not always the same. Drivers should be aware that, in most regions, it is illegal to drive at night with just the parking lights on although this practice used to be allowed in some cities. In most US states, it is illegal to drive with just the parking lights on whether in the day or night. Leaving running lights on during the day is perfectly legal, however, and is often encouraged. Drivers should consult the the appropriate regulatory body to be sure of the rules that affect them.
In addition to increasing visibility and alerting other drivers to the presence of a car, parking lights can also be useful in emergencies. In some cities where it is permitted, drivers use them to drive at night in well light areas, to help reduce light pollution. In addition, should a headlight go out while driving, the lights, which are typically on with the headlights in most car designs, can help to compensate and make other drivers aware that the approaching vehicle is a car with one headlight, not a motorcycle.