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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Headlight Conspiracy

I imagine you have noticed by now that all new cars have their headlights on all the time. I find this really annoying, especially when they have the new extra bright xenon headlights. For Pete's sake, we're in the city, all the streets are illuminated with street lights. You don't even need headlights at night around here, but now the law says they will be on all the time. It is probably not even a law, just some bureaucratic regulation.

Perhaps this is just a reflection of how tired I am, but bright headlights from oncoming traffic really bug me. I can tolerate the old incandescent, properly aimed, low beam lights of oncoming cars, and I can even deal with the occasional misdirected light because of curves and hills, but the situation has gotten much worse in recent years. We now have high powered lights, brighter lights with more accurate reflectors, more concentrated lights, and more lights out of alignment. The number of people driving around totally oblivious to what's going on around them, much less the effect they are having, has not changed, but their effect, because of the newer lights their cars are equipped with, is much enhanced making them a real menace, er, annoyance.

We have a 2001 car that has some newish headlights. My wife was following me home one night and I noticed that one of the headlights seemed to be bobbling. It would get very bright, and then dim, and then bright again, kind of like it was loose in its' mounting and wavering in its' aim. I checked it out later, and the mounting seemed to be very solid. It took me a few days of thinking about it but I finally concluded that the headlight's aim was just a tad high. If the car hit even a little bump (like a road joint or a pebble), it would be enough to deflect the aim of the headlight. The area of concentrated illumination is so well defined that a small deflection could move that area to include my rear view mirror, and so the light would appear brighter. So I adjusted that headlight down a fraction.

Recently I saw two movies that included: 1) a one legged woman, and 2) horrific automobile accidents involving driving with your lights off. One, as you may have guessed, was "Grindhouse", by Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez, which featured the girl with a machine gun for a leg. The other was "The Lookout" by Scott Frank. So now I am wondering if perhaps the people who were behind this "headlights on all the time" business managed to influence the movie people to use "driving with your lights off" as a plot device. I am sure it is a conspiracy.

Anyway, if we are going to have lights on all the time, could we at least use marker lights or some kind of low intensity headlights in the city? Do we really need airplane landing light strength headlights on residential or downtown streets? And does having lights on all the time actually have a negative effect on the accident rate? Or was this just somebody's political hot button?

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