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


Sunday Poll: When Should Drivers Turn On Their Headlights?

June 4, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: When Should Drivers Turn On Their Headlights?
Please vote below

For more than a dozen years now this blog has been about issues that interest me, the things I experience as an urban dweller. Automotive lighting is one such area of interest — been thinking about future posts on headlight & taillight design.

Driving at night without headlights might sound extremely undesirable at the moment, but in the future, it might be the norm.

Luc Donckerwolke, head of design for Hyundai luxury offshoot Genesis, believes that headlights will soon be unnecessary. Talking to a group of Australian journalists, Donckerwolke said autonomy might negate the need for headlights in the future, since the cars won’t need to “see” the road ahead.

In fact, that reasoning is why the latest Genesis concept, the GV80 fuel-cell crossover, only has tiny little peepers up front. “All Genesis [cars] will have those quad lights eventually, but as you see we are reducing the size because we are anticipating the fact that, slowly, cars won’t need lights anymore,” Donckerwolke told Motoring.com.au. (CNET)

Future autonomous cars might not need headlights, but those driven by humans do. Today’s poll is related.

This poll will close at 8pm. On Wednesday I’ll discuss the issues surrounding headlight use and share the results.

— Steve Patterson



Readers: Do Not Ease Future Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations

May 3, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Readers: Do Not Ease Future Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations

Our vehicles are getting bigger, but they use less fuel than just a few years ago. How is this possible? Because of fuel economy regulations manufacturers are making cars lighter, engines more efficient.

Though cars shrank in the 70s & 80s, they’ve been growing again:

Technological progress in the automobile has come with certain tradeoffs, one being an increase in size. Perhaps cars have inflated in size to better fit their occupants. Anyone who’s ridden three across in the back seat of a 1990s compact knows what we’re talking about. Safety standards and packaging even more airbags into each car have also contributed to the growth of the modern automobile.

The EPA places cars into specific size classes from minicompact (less than 85 cubic feet) to large (120 or more cubic feet) based on the combination of passenger and cargo volume. In the interest of consistency, all volume figures quoted are from the EPA. (Motor Trend)

Our 2007 Honda Civic is a prime example. A new Civic has more interior volume yet has a higher fuel rating from the EPA:

In the last decade the Civic has grown from a subcompact to a midsize, yet the fuel economy has increased. Source: fuel economy.gov

The even larger 2017 Honda Accord has a higher EPA rating than our 10 year-old Civic. The “small” 2017 Honda Fit has more interior volume that our Civic — also more than a 1992 Accord!  Better fuel economy too — 22 combined for the ’92 Accord but 36 for the new Fit. Worldwide regulations have pushed manufacturers to make cars better.


In March President Trump expressed an interest in slowing down coming regulations:

Originally, regulators mandated that automakers achieve an average 54.5 mpg by 2025, but they relaxed that target to between 50.8 mpg and 52.6 mpg last year. Now, automakers will have more time to fight the standards, as the review process could take about a year.

The review is not set to impact California’s right to impose fuel economy rules that are stricter than federal standards, a White House official told Reuters. However, the official wouldn’t rule out the possibility of that changing in the future. (Motor Trend)

A proposed budget would render any review mute — from last month:

The Trump administration would virtually eliminate federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for vehicle emissions and fuel economy testing but will seek to raise fees on industry to pay for some testing, a government document shows.

The cuts would slash by more than half the staff of the EPA department that conducts vehicle, engine, and fuel testing to verify emissions standards are met and mileage stickers are accurate. Its work helped lead to Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) 2015 admission that it violated vehicle emissions rules for years. (Reuters)


California isn’t backing down on emissions regulations to cut smog, from March:

California will move forward with vehicle pollution targets set forth by the Obama administration, despite a move by current President Donald Trump to put those targets on hold.

On Friday, the California Air Resources Board voted to uphold Obama’s stricter emissions rules for the state. It also established a target for 15 percent of new vehicles to be powered by battery, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid powertrains by 2025, up from about 3 percent today. The rules are part of CARB’s larger plan to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2030. (Motor Trend)

Don’t be surprised if the Trump administration tries to take away California’s right to set their own auto emissions standards.

Most of those who voted in the most recent non-scientific Sunday Poll agree regulations shouldn’t be eased:

Q: Agree or disagree: With falling gas prices & buyer preference for bigger vehicles, upcoming stricter emissions/fuel economy regs should be relaxed

  • Strongly agree 2 [5.56%]
  • Agree 3 [8.33%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Strongly disagree 26 [72.22%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]





Sunday Poll: Should Stricter Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations Be Eased?

April 30, 2017 Environment, Featured, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Stricter Emissions & Fuel Economy Regulations Be Eased?
Please vote below

Stricter emissions & corporate fuel economy (CAFE) regulations established by the previous administration, seen as too cumbersome, may not be funded.  From last month:

In a March 21 budget document posted online by the Washington Post, the Trump administration proposed eliminating $48 million in federal funding for EPA vehicle and fuel testing and certification.

It represents a 99 percent federal cut to the vehicle testing budget and would require “pretty much shutting down the testing lab,” said Margo Oge, who headed the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality under President Barack Obama. (Reuters)

Some argue the regulatory goals are attainable while others say they’re hurting manufacturing jobs. Today’s unscientific poll seeks to find out reader views on the issue.

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Missouri Should Not Close Rest Areas

April 26, 2017 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Readers: Missouri Should Not Close Rest Areas

A majority of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll think Missouri shouldn’t close interstate rest areas as a way to close budget shortfalls.

Florida, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota are among the states that have closed traditional rest stops in the last two years. And a battle is brewing in Connecticut over a proposal to shut down all seven stops on its interstate highways to save money. (USA Today)

I’m not aware of any plans in Missouri to do the same as these other states

Route 66-themed Welcome Center on I-44, click image for more information

I know I like rest areas when I’ve driving — a restroom without having to buy something. Those few minutes out of the car improves my alertness.

The poll results:

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri should NOT provide rest areas along our interstate highways

  • Strongly agree 3 [5.17%]
  • ]Agree 5 [8.62%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [3.45%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [5.17%]
  • Disagree 11 [18.97%]
  • Strongly disagree 34 [58.62%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I am curious about the cost of a rest area vs a welcome center.

— Steve Patterson






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