See And Be Seen

Despite the winter weather and the poor visibility we have to put up with, many drivers seem curiously reluctant to put their dipped headlights on.

Perhaps this is a hangover from the days when cars had only basic electronics: older drivers will remember that there was a risk that having too many electrical appliances on might prevent the battery charging and so lead to starting problems.

But those days are fortunately long gone. The typical modern car is capable of running its headlights without a problem. So why the reluctance to light up?

If visibility deteriorates for any reason - not just darkness, but that familiar winter drizzle - you shouldn't hesitate to put your dipped headlights on.

A good rule of thumb is to make a point of turning on your headlights whenever you need to use your windscreen wipers.

You may feel that you can still see well enough, so why bother? But what you can see is not the whole story: you should aim to see and be seen. Other road users may not have eyesight as good as yours. And in gloomy conditions, you need to look particularly carefully in your mirrors before changing lanes. It may be that the driver who hasn't "lit up" is attempting to overtake you.

If the weather is foggy, by all means use your fog lights. But use your foglights sparingly. If you leave them on after the mist has disappeared, you are causing a major irritant for other drivers. Rear fog lights left on after they are needed when the mist has cleared are positively dangerous: they can also mask the visibility of brake lights and so lead to needless braking by the vehicles following.

It may be that by 2012, as the result of a European initiative, vehicles will automatically have headlights on whenever they are in use. But until then, don't be dim - light up!

3 March 2006 Staff
 

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