Lighting defects create danger on the roads
Headlights improve the visibility of traffic in heavy rain at dusk. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST
What should you do if you are following a driver with no taillights illuminated in darkness? The polite move is to get the driver’s attention by quickly flashing the high beams. Better the offending driver be alerted by a fellow traveller than the local police, with the predicted traffic ticket potential. Police are much more likely to warn these inattentive drivers with a similar flash of the light bar or quick sound of their siren. Drivers with inoperable lights are the ones that will get a ticket as opposed to the absentminded commuter.
What should you do if encountering an oncoming driver with only one headlight? The same warning behaviour may be employed, but it is much safer to turn your headlights off and on to alert the driver as this will have a reduced chance of temporarily blinding the One-Eyed-Jack. Most vehicle warning systems will tell the driver that the headlight is not working. There is little excuse for a driver to not notice this defect. The reluctance to get it fixed may have more to do with the expense than safety. Because of the recent time change we are seeing this problem more often in the fall. Many drivers would rather avoid driving at night and inadvertently get caught by the early sunset at this time of year.
There are many drivers who use the fog lights at the same time as the headlights. This is not the best combination for anyone. It should be one or the other. There is a potential to confuse oncoming traffic of all sorts when both sets are turned on at the same time.
When a driver is bothered by the bright lights of a following driver, it is best to engage the 4-way flashers. This will send a message to the unaware driver behind. These flashers are probably the least used light system on the vehicle, despite being the most effective at alerting and warning others. They can be used to warn oncoming drivers of animals on the road or other various hazards which may surprise everyone.
Flaggers feel safer when flashers are activated by approaching drivers. This light system is performing a dual warning function for not only approaching but also following traffic. They can be used to warn a tailgater to allow more space.
Many people are going to work or school in the dark and coming home in the dark, too. The two age groups that are most adversely affected by the dark conditions are the young and the not-so young drivers. Teens do not see well at night. They suffer from teenage myopia. They have trouble seeing the black holes between the streetlights. They see well in areas that are lit up like a football stadium at night or when they are in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with no artificial-light interference. Their eyes do not mature until they get into their early 20s, when the problem is no more.
Seniors, on the other hand, have a similar problem. As they age, night driving becomes more challenging because of the narrowing of their field of visions. The peripheral vision, which has served them so well throughout their driving lifetime, moves from 180 degrees to about 140 and lessens even more with advanced age. The news is not all bad. There are several viewing techniques and sequence of checks which can compensate for the narrowing of the field of vision. Many seniors are bothered by the sheer brightness of the typical newer vehicle headlights.
All drivers should pay more attention this time of year to pedestrian movement. Many walkers do nothing to make themselves visible at night. Dark clothing is in vogue. Style trumps safety. Drivers beware!