More than half of Tauranga drivers surveyed by the Bay of Plenty Times this week failed to use headlights in fading light.
Legally, headlights need to be used during the official hours of darkness - 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before the next sunrise. This includes any other time when a person cannot clearly see a person or vehicle 100 metres away.
However, the Motor Trade Association said the time leading up to sunset was the most risky and not enough people were paying attention to the dangers of fading light.
An unscientific survey carried out at the intersection of Cameron Rd and Elizabeth St on Tuesday found 128 motorists out of 347 travelling south did not use their lights in the 15 minutes before sunset at 5.11pm.
Western Bay of Plenty head of road policing Ian Campion said motorists not turning on their lights was a major problem, not only with fading light but in different driving and weather conditions.
The most crashes in Tauranga occurred at intersections, Mr Campion said, and many drivers involved said they had not seen the other vehicle or had attempted to get through a hole in traffic to get across a road.
"You might have a line of traffic with their lights on and one car without that looks like it leaves a gap, so you have a driver looking to take that gap to cross the road.
"It's important in those twilight hours to have your lights on," he said.
Mr Campion said the use of headlights at the end or beginning of the day was a good self-preservation technique. Motorcyclists were required to have their lights on at all times so it made sense that drivers of cars should do likewise when visibility was reduced, he said.
Motor Trade Association spokesman Hamish Stuart said the time either side of sunset provided the biggest challenge to some motorists because it was not easy for them to determine when it was "officially dark".
"Most rely on common sense to tell them when they need to have their headlights on."
This was often during peak traffic times, he said.
"Unsurprisingly, the highest number of injury accidents occurs on our roads during these periods."
The MTA held its own survey of more than 1000 vehicles in Wellington in the same timeframe and found almost 5 per cent of motorists did not use their headlights correctly.
Mr Stuart said park lights were only to be used when a car was stationary.
"It's much better to have other road users remarking you having your lights on earlier in the day than not - they're talking because they see you. It's the cars people don't see that cause the crashes."