Jan 30, 2012

Night Driving II

This is the second entry I've made about driving at night (refer to Night Driving for a good start). But this one is based on a lot of driving I've done in the last few weeks on the highway and on local streets. The concepts are the same. And a key point that nearly EVERYONE has forgotten, is that driving is a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. Which means, there are some basic things that every driver needs to be aware of to keep their license.

Headlight overkill on an Italian scooter.
Image via Wikipedia
My first point is about headlights. This is a follow up to another entry I made about asking people to understand when to use their headlights click [HERE]. In that entry, I ask drivers to please consider when they turn on their lights. Today I am going to ask drivers to be aware of some BASIC driving concepts about headlights.

If we are driving on hilly terrain, please don't flash me your high beams because sometimes our lights will be directly in each others' eyes simply because of where we are in relationship to each other. You flashing instantly blinds me for a few seconds, and there isn't much I can do about it, except flash you back, and blind you too. That isn't safe for either of us as we approach each other at ANY speed, let alone above 55 mph.

When driving on an interstate or highway, even if there is a grassy median between us, you going south when I'm going north, and you have high beams on, will still blind me, especially on hilly terrain or going around bends. Have you figured out why there are green posts on concrete medians when we are closer together? Yeah, your lights still blind me and make it unsafe for those around us no matter how much distance separates us if there are not hills, trees, or posts to break up your high beams.

 If you are driving in a coupe or sedan, and I am driving in a medium sized SUV (like the Toyota Highlander), do not flash me, you are riding lower than me so my lights are going to hit your eyes because YOU chose a lower body style to drive. Also applies to all of the people that lower the driver seat as low as possible or recline it back more.

LED headlights, world first on production cars...
Image via Wikipedia
Headlight technology is changing. Halogens are on the way out, while Xenon and LEDs are on the way in. If I spend money to get the best bulbs I can for my vehicle, don't assume that I am leaving my high beams on (I NEVER turn them on), it is just that my bulbs are brighter than yours. Again, flashing me will only blind me and make it temporary blind to my environments.

Flashing your headlights at me can be interpreted as "aggressive driving," and yes, you can be pulled over, ticketed, and fined for doing that in several states. I leave it to YOU to find out which ones.

Okay, enough ranting about headlights at night. How about my other two points related to turning. Even though that is a basic concept, a majority of drivers out there today never truly learned it, or they just don't care about others.

All vehicles come with 4 little lights on them (including motorcycles). 2 in the front and 2 in the back, 2 on the right, 2 on the left. They are all controlled by a little rod or button that sticks out of your steering column/handlebar, at your fingertips. The purpose is so I don't have to depend on my telepathic ability to figure out what the Hell you are going to do. How about actually USING them to let me know? Both during the day, and at especially at night.

That applies not only to when you are turning from one road onto another, it applies to most driving laws to when you are simply changing lanes on a multi lane road. Yeah, you should check your local BMV/DMV driving codes to see what is expected of you there. I've been pulled over & ticketed for failing to indicate a lane change. Why? Because I now understand how unsafe that is for those around me.

When did "drift turning" become acceptable? By this I mean when you approach an intersection, and don't make a legal 90 degree turn onto that road, but you drift across my turning lane and double yellow line (on the road you are entering) at a 45 degree angle, and give ME a dirty look because I was in the turning lane? Oh, right, it is either because you don't care or your stop light actually was RED when you were trying to skate drift through it to get to your destination 30 seconds earlier.

When did driving on a side street to make a turn at night, you, AS A DRIVER, need to be aware of what is going on around you. Just because you come to an intersection and can turn without a stop sign, you still need to use the turn signals, and be aware of what people and dogs may be walking in that area. Remember, pedestrians have the right of way, the driver does not. Using the turn signals indicates to the non-telepathic pedestrians that you intend to turn (so maybe they'll stop their steps to avoid being hit) AND you need to be aware of the fact that there may be pedestrians in your neighborhood that you really don't want to be held responsible for hitting. Because yes, it WOULD be your fault. This happened recently to some friends of mine and their 2 dogs. If the driver had hit them, I would have hunted them down and made them remember each and every moment of the suffering the caused, simply because they didn't use their turn signals and didn't pay attention to what was going on around them as a driver.

Okay, maybe that is enough of a rant. A better summary of this entry is that we are all facing a lot more distracted driving today. Please go back to the BASICS that we were all taught in driving classes about headlights, turning signals, turning, and awareness to make things safer again...oh yeah, and learn what the LAWS of driving actually are in your area...

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