What’s bright, sits at the front and rear of your car, is operated by a switch, standard on all cars and could save your life?
This is no bad joke leftover from a Christmas cracker. Plain, old-fashioned lights, aside from the seatbelt, have to be one of the simplest pieces of safety kit on your car.
But it’s a sad fact that many of us choose to ignore operating a simple switch that can make our cars more visible to other motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Years ago I remember the topic of using dipped headlamps during the daytime used to come up in the car on the way home from school with my mother who incidentally believed in using them at all times. We used to pass the same man out for his walk and this man would point and gesticulate at the headlamps on my mother’s car. I remember the feeling that a mortal sin had been committed – there was a look in his eyes that seemed to say, “Turn off those lights or what sort of eegit are you with your lights on during the day”.
I would say a good fifteen years have passed since and it is definitely more common to see motorists on Irish roads use dipped headlamps during the day. More cars are fitted with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) -lights that come on automatically when the engine is running. You are not as likely now to get flashed by other motorists during the day for “forgetting” to turn off your lights.
The message from authority is clear on the matter too. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has a campaign ‘Lights on to Save Lives’ to encourage motorists to use dipped headlamps during the day to improve visibility. We all know that the Scandinavians have been using DRLs for years due to the lack of light during the day there in the winter months.
An EU directive means it is now obligatory for all new vehicles to be fitted with DRLs.The Government here is even talking about making it mandatory for cars to use dipped headlamps during the day.
These measures and campaigns are sending out a clear message that rather than just using lights to see the road ahead, we should use lights to be seen also.
According to the RSA, dipped headlights can prevent head-on and front-corner collisions, and make it easier to identify oncoming vehicles in the distance. In countries where DRLs are mandatory, numerous studies have shown their effectiveness in not only improving detection by other motorists, but also improving reaction times and estimation of speed and distance. DRLs make vehicles appear closer so they can often deter motorists from making a potentially hazardous overtaking manoeuvre.
Whether in bright sunshine or pelting rain, turning on headlamps during the day is a simple safety precaution that could save a life. I come across cars all over the place with the rain pelting down and no lights on. It can be hard to spot oncoming cars on a country road on a winter’s afternoon with the sun low in the sky.
We may have the best of intentions when it comes to lighting up but it’s no use if the bulbs have blown or the headlamp alignment is not right, so it is worth checking these regularly.
It will be a good day when putting on lights during daytime driving becomes as normal an action as putting on a seatbelt.
2nd January, 2014