Driver education alert! Low light headlight etiquette

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

With more cars and trucks sporting additional sets of headlights, can you help educate drivers on their proper use? By turning on every light available, drivers get to show off how much they spent on their imported car or sports package. But being faced with, or even worse, followed by four headlights is blinding and disorienting to the rest of us. I have increasingly encountered this problem on moderate to heavily trafficked roads where it seems that one set of headlights would be sufficient. What do you think?

RAY: We're glad you wrote, Maynard. We've been meaning to shed some light on headlight etiquette for some time now. For those of you who don't know, driving lights are very powerful extra headlights designed to supplement a car's high beams. They're even brighter than high beams, and they're good for driving on dark, deserted roads, like you'd find in the Australian outback or certain parts of New York City. But you're right, Maynard. There's absolutely no reason for them ever to be used in the presence of any other traffic.

TOM: And people who do use them in traffic show a total disregard for their fellow drivers. Sociologists have a name for people like this: They call them jerks. And these jerks are blinding the rest of us.

RAY: The question is what to do about the misuse of driving lights? We've tried the obvious approaches; jamming the high beams on as the offending driver approaches you, or slowing down to a snail's pace if he's blinding you from behind. But as you well know, these methods have very little impact .

TOM: So we think it's time to try education. Let's assume that people who use their driving lights in traffic don't realize they're being jerks. Let's assume that no one's ever told them that they're blinding the rest of us, and that if they knew that, they would be glad to act responsibly. Let's give these folks the benefit of the doubt.

RAY: Here's the plan. Clip this column and make ten photocopies. Stick them in your glove compartment, and when you see a car in a parking lot with driving lights, leave a copy of the column on the windshield. This will be something like a special delivery chain letter.

TOM: It just might work. After all, most people don't really want to be jerks. And for those who do, we'll print the glue-on version of this column at a later date.

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