Headlights aren't just for the dark
The Kansas City Star
I am amazed at people who don’t turn on their headlights until it’s pitch dark. I’m even more amazed that, as a general rule, it seems that the darker the car color, the later the drivers turn on the lights. It’s as if they want to be stealth cars or something.
It seems to me that many people don’t realize that headlights are not only for the driver to be able to see. They’re for that motorist’s car to be seen.
I’ve noticed that many people don’t follow the Missouri law that says if your wipers are on your headlights should be on. This is not only so you can see — it makes your vehicle much more visible in the rain. And, it can keep you from getting a ticket.
Dusk and dawn are tricky times, too.
Many drivers figure, if they can see, they don’t need to turn on their lights. However, when I’m driving facing the sun, it’s much easier to see another car coming at me if the other vehicle’s headlights are on.
Surely other motorists also have been almost blinded when the sun’s at a certain angle.
And, if those drivers have noticed, those headlights coming at them make other bright spots. But a dark car, coming down an asphalt road with no lights is almost invisible.
I’ve even had an incident in broad daylight when a dark car was hard to see. It was a very hot day, and there were heat shimmers on the hilly, black asphalt road that I was trying to cross.
I almost pulled out in front of a dark blue car that was practically indistinguishable from the shimmers. If that driver had had his headlights on, I would have seen the vehicle easily.
Some people turn on their parking lights when it gets to be dusk. And this does make the car a little more visible to others.
However, this can be a problem for the driver.
In most cars, when the parking lights are on, the dash lights come on, too. So the driver, glancing down at the lighted dash assumes the headlights are on.
Suddenly, the driver turns onto a dark street and realizes that he/she has no idea what’s ahead.
The parking lights don’t illuminate the road ahead.
Grab for the light switch and hope you don’t hit anything before the lights come on.
There’s a reason they’re called “parking lights,” folks. They’re to make your car visible when you’re parked. They are not for driving.
Many of the newer cars have daytime running lights. These, according to Wikipedia, are “automatically switched on when the vehicle is moving forward, emitting white, yellow, or amber light to increase the conspicuity of the vehicle during daylight conditions.”
Apparently, I’m not the only person to see that having lights on during daylight hours increases safety.
However, I see in Wikipedia’s article that they can be turned off, if the driver so chooses.
Personally, I leave my headlights on all the time.
That way, I don’t have to remember to turn them off and on. I’m never invisible on the road.
When I turn into a dark parking garage on a bright day, I can still see even before my eyes adjust completely. I know that when I leave the dark parking garage, the person coming in from bright sunshine can see me.
With my headlights on all the time, I know I have conspicuity (which is a rather contrived word, but that’s just my opinion) whenever and wherever I am.
And that’s a good thing. If you want to increase your conspicuity, keep your headlights or daytime running lights going all the time.
I hope this article helps more drivers see the light.
Suzanne Conaway of Kansas City is retired from information technology. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.