Saturday, 8 November 2008


While I'm on the subject of motoring, why is it that some people insist on driving along well-lit roads at night with headlights on full-power dipped beam or even high beam? It doesn't allow them to see any better, but significantly impairs the ability of oncoming drivers to see what's near their car. Many's the time when I have been uncertain of the amount of space between a dazzling pair of headlamps on the opposite side of the road and parked vehicles on my side, so that I have had to stop. Once I nearly knocked down a guy crossing the road behind a car coming towards me - he was wearing dark clothes and was simply hidden by the glare from the headlamps.

The only situation in which I will agree that the use of something stronger than sidelights is useful is when I'm approaching a corner. Traffic coming from another direction announces itself by the headlight beam cast ahead. Yet even this is sometimes misleading, as there are plenty of idiots who will park at the side of the road leaving their headlamps switched on. As we don't need this kind of advance warning during the daytime, why should it be required at night?

I always choose sidelights or dim-dip headlights when motoring in areas with good street lighting, out of consideration to other drivers - yet they frequently flash me, assuming that I have forgotten to switch on my lights properly. Other sins include the use of fog lights front and rear when there is no fog. This is particularly dangerous when the road is wet, because they are mounted low down and the reflections off the water can almost blind other road users.

Rules 113 and 114 of the Highway Code sum up the requirements of the law, which seem perfectly common-sense:

  • ensure all sidelights and rear registration plate lights are lit between sunset and sunrise
  • use headlights at night, except on a road which has lit street lighting. These roads are generally restricted to a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise specified
  • use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226)
Night (the hours of darkness) is defined as the period between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.

  • use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders
  • use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other road users (see Rule 226)
In stationary queues of traffic, drivers should apply the parking brake and, once the following traffic has stopped, take their foot off the footbrake to deactivate the vehicle brake lights. This will minimise glare to road users behind until the traffic moves again.

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