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Option: Minority Of Drivers Put Others At Risk By Not Using Headlights When Visibility Is Reduced.

June 7, 2017 Featured, Transportation No Comments
The latest Volvo’s have distinctive “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights.

I got pulled over once for not having my headlights on when I should have. Years ago I bought a used Audi A4 where the dash lights were on if the car was on. Leaving a restaurant on South Grand my first night with the car I could see fine due to all the urban light pollution, but others couldn’t see me. A few cars before the Audi was a used Volvo that allowed me to leave the switch in the on position — the lights went on and off with the car.

Anyway, a longtime pet peeve of mine is people who don’t have their lights on when they should. I rarely drive now, just once or twice each weekend. Maybe a weeknight dinner out (will be on South Grand again tomorrow night for our 3rd wedding anniversary). Most drivers are good about using their lights, but 5-10% are not.

The non-scientific results of Sunday’s poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Drivers should turn on their headlights only when they have trouble seeing the road.

  • Strongly agree 0 [0%]
  • Agree 3 [7.89%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 12 [31.58%]
  • Strongly disagree 23 [60.53%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

All but 3 answered correctly. The 3 who agreed with the statement are wrong — they’re likely among those putting at risk by not turning on their lights when they should.

Most polls don’t get many comments on social media, but this one did. These comments on the Facebook post explain what I planned to explain today:

From Beverly B:

Headlights aren’t just for the driver to see the road, they’re for others to see you. I (barely) see untold numbers of headlight-less drivers at dusk, on cloudy days, and in other low light situations and to me, it’s dangerous. I habitually turn my headlights on when I start my car and I wish all cars were made so that they were always on when the engine is running.

Jacob S replied to the above comment:

Seconded! I was just about to comment along these same lines. I’m glad someone else already did! Headlights are extremely important for pedestrians to see cars! The fact that this topic is even up for debate (amongst society, not necessarily this page lol) is infuriating. As long as there are humans walking on this planet motor vehicles should always have to have headlights on at night and daytime running lights on during the day. It’s a safety issue. I wish Missouri police would step up their ticketing of people who aren’t using their lights during the night and when it’s raining (which is actually required by state law and is posted on every roadway upon entering the state).

Joe B wrote:

Back around 2002, Regina Walsh came knocking on my door asking for votes to become a Missouri Representative. She also asked if there was anything I’d like to see passed. With a resounding YES, I said a law to turn on all vehicle lights in rain, fog or snow. Imagine a tractor-trailer going down the middle lane of I-270. Now imagine that truck needs to get into the right hand lane for an upcoming exit ramp. Now imagine a GRAY CAR sitting next to that truck’s right side in the rain with NO LIGHTS ON. You want me to send you a private message with the original letter I typed up to be read in front of the Missouri Legislators? I will. I’m the one that started the ball rolling! Wake up people… Inclement weather hinders others vision from SEEING YOU unless you turn on your damn lights. Twenty years I drove without a single wreck or ticket. – end of rant.

David B quoted Missouri’s law:

RSMO 307.020:

(9) “When lighted lamps are required” means at any time from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of five hundred feet ahead. Lighted lamps shall also be required any time the weather conditions require usage of the motor vehicle’s windshield wipers to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner as defined in section 304.012. The provisions of this section shall be interpreted to require lighted lamps during periods of fog even if usage of the windshield wipers is not necessary to operate the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner.

The laws in all 50 states are similar, though they do vary. A total of 20 states, including Missouri, require headlights when wipers are in use. .

As usual. one missed the mark. Jim Z commented :

Daytime running lights (DRL’s) serve essentially the same purpose and are required in Canada, so GM chose to make them standard on their vehicles 20-some years ago. The upside is that they do make vehicles more visible from the front, but the downside is that they do nothing to make vehicles more visible from the rear. Given the spread of automatic headlamps, it’s amazing the number of vehicles I see driving around at night with just their DRL’s on and no tail lights. But the biggest offenders seem to be some bicyclists (and yes, they are vehicles) who ride at night, many times against traffic, with no lights, at all! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daytime_running_lamp

DRLs make cars more visible during the daytime when visibility isn’t reduced by clouds, rain, snow, etc. Automatic headlights? The used Corolla I nought in 2008 had them — they’d come on when I pulled into our parking garage or if it was very late out. I had to manually switch then on many times.

Back to comments on Facebook, Brian W used his wife’s vehicle as an example:

A lot of cars (like Diane’s new RAV4) that have automatic headlights are not calibrated low enough to activate when there’s rain or overcast conditions during the day. I still find myself having to manually activate the headlights.
I suspect many people don’t even know *how* to manually turn theirs on!

And DRL’s (and the always-illuminated dash) Are pox on humanity!!
I can’t even count the # of people I see driving with lights out at night because of these things!

If it were up to me all lights (front, rear, dash) would be on at all times. Short of that it wouldn’t be difficult for new cars to have lights come on when wipers are used. Once we all stop driving and use autonomous vehicles the issue of lighting will become moot. Until that time, it is relevant.

Automotive lighting is one of my favorite topics so future posts will address design and regulation.

— Steve Patterson


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