Thursday 18 December 2014

How we are blinding other drivers with fog lights and high beams

Our RSA expert analyses a study which reveals that one in 10 drivers use fog lights when they shouldn't

Published 29/01/2014 | 02:30

Night driving - watch your lights. Photo: Getty Images.
Night Driving

Pop quiz readers. What is the definition of a car fog lamp?

Is it (A); 'A lamp fixed to a vehicle that may be switched on to allow fellow motorists to see you while driving in fog or poor visibility'?

Or is it (B)? 'Really cool lights that make your car look cool and all other drivers think you're dead trendy'?

The answer of course is A. But it is amazing how many people seem intent on misusing their fog lights. It's really simple . . . if it's foggy . . . turn them on. If it's not foggy . . . leave them off.

Some drivers seem to think that front fog lights are car spotlights. They are not. Front and rear fog lights can blind drivers when used in clear conditions. They can also cause a dazzling reflection when driving on wet roads by creating a pool of light on the ground immediately in front of a vehicle, which a driver can have difficulty seeing past.

Fog lights are designed for use only in dense fog, falling snow or heavy rain conditions and never during ordinary visibility when they tend to blind the driver of the car in front or approaching from behind. Misusing rear fog lights can make it difficult to see your brake lights.

To find out just how big a problem this is we carried out a study last November/December. We observed the lighting on almost 30,000 vehicles. We also recorded the weather and road conditions at the time. One of the early findings of the report shows one in 10 drivers use fog lights inappropriately. This was mostly front fog lights.

REDUCED

The golden rule is only use front or rear fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced and switch them off when visibility improves.

Using fog lights in clear weather is a motoring offence. Misuse of fog lights could lead to a prosecution where you could face a fine of €1,000.

Our study also shows there is a problem with broken lighting and badly-adjusted beams.

Again based on almost 30,000 observations, one-in-every-20 cars were observed to have one front defective light,

Now I don't know about you but the thought of encountering a 'One Eyed Jack' as we call them with only one working headlight terrifies me. These cars can be easily mistaken for a motorcyclist and could lead to a serious collision.

It is extremely important to have correctly working lights on your car. Check they are in proper working order before you start your next journey.

Think about it – how can you be safe if you can't be seen? Just take a couple of minutes to turn on your lights and check them before you start your trip – this simple check could get you home safely tonight.

Oh! and don't forget to give them a clean too. They won't be much use if they are coated in a film of dirt.

If you do find faulty or broken lights get them repaired without delay. Using the fog lights as a substitute is not the answer. It will typically cost between €10 and €20 to replace a bulb, if you don't it could end up costing you more if convicted and fined in a court or if you were responsible for a crash.

Badly-adjusted headlamps on vehicles are also a big problem.

Headlamps with faulty beams are dangerous as they limit a driver's range of vision and may dazzle oncoming traffic even when dipped.

If you sometimes carry heavy items in the boot, this extra weight will change the focus of the headlamps and may dazzle oncoming drivers. You should refer to your car manual to find out if there is a way to adjust the lights.

It's in everybody's interest to take all possible precautions to ensure our safety on the road.

A good start would be to check your lights and repair any that are broken, without delay. And remember, fog lights are not fashion accessories.

Irish Independent

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