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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Multi-lighted vehicles are a hazard

February 8, 2013

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, February 6th 2013

ALTHOUGH HAVING HEADLIGHTS ON AT ALL TIMES IS A GOOD IDEA, TOO MANY LIGHTS CAN BLIND OTHER DRIVERS. PHOTOGRAPH BY: DEBRA BRASH, TIMES COLONIST

Many drivers have complained to me about the number of multi-lighted vehicles visibly assaulting them from all directions, particularly front and back. They relate stories of extreme frustration with four front lights of oncoming drivers “blasting” them and four similarly bright lights “hitting” them from the rear-view mirror reflection. Combined with the cross-traffic quadruple lights in both lateral directions, it becomes a visual hazard in any driving environment. Enforcement is imminent, according to Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham. Be forewarned!

Here are the rules and best practices when using fog and auxiliary-vehicle lighting systems.

Fog lights, under the Motor Vehicle Act, can be used instead of headlights “when atmospheric conditions make the use of headlights disadvantageous.” This means it must be foggy. It does not mean drivers can use them in clear weather during the day or night. They may be used in heavy rain or in certain snowy conditions. They would be useless in heavy-snowfall conditions, something any professional driver knows. Using fog lamps improperly violates the Motor Vehicle Act and can result in a fine of $81.

Auxiliary driving lights are permitted under the act, but no more than two lights are permitted. They can be operated at the same time as headlights. Drivers can only use them when needed. They cannot drive around blinding others when such bright light is unnecessary. If the light is blinding oncoming traffic, there is a good chance it’s an offence under the act.

Aside from the rules, there are basic advantages in the use of headlights and taillights at all times when driving. Even if older-vintage vehicles do not light up automatically when operational, it’s a good idea to have the headlights on at all times. Drivers who scan for hazards as they drive seldom pay as much attention to approaching unlit vehicles as those that are illuminated. Driving without headlights is an invitation to be ignored by oncoming traffic. Crash rates in many jurisdictions are higher for unlit vehicles.

Taillights should be illuminated as well, particularly in bad weather or whenever there is poor visibility. Taillights draw attention to a vehicle. Making sure the taillights are on reduces the chance of being hit from behind.

Four-way-flashers can be used effectively, as well. When you’re approaching an unscheduled stop, it’s a good idea to use the flashers. They are very effective in waking up inattentive drivers when you’re stopping for a pedestrian using a mid-block crosswalk. They can discourage tailgaters, most of whom are simply zoning out as they drive. Flag people certainly appreciate it when approaching drivers display their flashers. It gives them confidence they have been seen. It also warns following drivers of an obstacle or unscheduled stop ahead.

Flashers can alert oncoming drivers of the presence of wildlife, crash scenes, emergency vehicles and other unexpected dangers on the road. Truckers use them when climbing steep, long hills. It’s a clear sign to other drivers of a slow-moving big rig.

Vehicle lights allow us all to see and be seen. Use them judiciously and be considerate of others.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.

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