BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Have you ever had a close call driving at night, barely missing another car that had its headlights off? Authorities say they are seeing more night drivers with the lights off, and News 4 is finding out why.

Headlights were invented, in the first place, for the benefit of drivers. But safety is a two-way street — so to speak — and automotive experts say some of a car’s new gadgetry can lead the driver to think their lights are on when they are not.

Day, or night, the instrument cluster in most cars built in the last 10 to 15 years lights up with the turn of the key or push of a button. So, once night falls, drivers can be easily lulled into believing their headlights are on, too.

“Your radio, everything lights up, and that is just the modern car, the day and age that we live in,” said New York State Trooper Jim O’Callaghan. “With that mindset, you automatically assume that your lights turn on as well, because it is dark. But they do not.”

Trooper O’Callaghan, the spokesman for New York State Police in Western New York told News 4, Troop A alone issued 4800 tickets last year, for driving with the lights off. Although there were other reasons, such as drunk or impaired driving, or lights that malfunctioned.

“Other vehicles can’t see you, and we are getting into the summer months, where motorcycles are on the roadway,” he said. “If they don’t see a vehicle coming because the headlights are off, they are liable to pull out in front of them, and that could be a fatality collision.”

O’Callaghan also pointed out, if your running lights are on, your taillights might not be — but there is one sure way to know your headlights are on — the symbol that looks like two opposing headlights is lit.

“There is an indicator on your dashboard or on your instrument cluster that will tell you whether headlights are on or off,” he said.

O’Callaghan told News 4 that safety is a two-way street. With spring and summer events coming up, you need to look out for others, just as they need to see you.

“We are going to have a lot of graduation parties, prom parties, summer is coming up,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people walking and crossing the streets at night. You’ve got to be visible but you also have to make sure that you can see where you are going as well.”

Canadian authorities have recognized these dangers and adopted regulations requiring the lights on new cars to automatically turn on at night, or taillights turn on with daytime running lights are on, or the dashboard stays dark until the headlights are on.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.