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November 2001 Rant

"The Bright Lights"

Have you ever been blinded by car or truck headlights at night? Have you ever had a pick-up truck pull behind you at a stoplight and stop over to the left so that the truck's headlights shine right in your outside mirror? Have you ever had a vehicle follow behind you at night with its headlights so far out of adjustment that they shine right over the roof of your car and far beyond your own headlights? We've all experienced the brightness of the new halogen lights that are in wide spread usage.

What you may not know about are HID's. HID's are "High Intensity Discharge" lights; some are standard on performance/luxury vehicles. These lights are four times as bright as ordinary halogens. They even require special wiring and ballasts. The headlight conversion kits cost about $800. Fog light kits cost about $600. Not only are HID's available, you can also buy extra bright bulbs to replace your halogen bulbs and even the old 1157 bulbs that have been around for years. Everyone wants the brightest lights.

I'm tired of being blinded by lights that are simply too bright. There is nothing scarier than driving down a dark country road on a moonless night and then being completely blinded by bright lights. You have to slow down until your eyes adjust to where you can see again. The argument for the ultra-bright lights is one of safety. The ads read that you will be able to see better and further on dark nights and in bad weather. They don't mention being hit by someone you just "blinded".

And who started the "it's cool to have fog lights on all the time fad"? Vehicles are now coming from the factory with installed fog lights. You can get fog lights in several colors including the popular yellows and blues. I always wondered why people would drive around in bright sunlight with their fog lights on. One day going to work a fellow employee was following me with his blinding fog lights on. When we got to work I asked him why he was driving in daylight with fog lights. He said he forgot they were on. I know that's not true.

The real reason is of course it's "cool". So cool in fact that one national street rod magazine decided to run photos of rods with lights on a couple of years back. The magazine even went so far as to run an article about a new product that would allow street rod and special vehicle owners to have their headlights on all the time, just like the daytime running lights on some new vehicles. The article cited safety but above all a rod looks neat with the lights on, even in daylight. We all know about those car mags. They are just print advertisements for manufacturers of auto parts. Every new part gets tested and reviewed by the magazine staff and is of course better than any previously available part in many ways. Since I haven't seen any street rods or other special vehicles with daytime running lights, I guess that magazine didn't get their fad started.

The National Highway traffic Safety Administration is looking into headlights that are too bright. There have been a lot of complaints lately about the brightness of headlights, especially those on trucks and SUV's. Now the federal government is going to consider new regulations for headlights. No one likes the government to step in and begin dictating new rules, but in this case we don't have much choice with all the bright lights. Some of those blue lights you see out there on the highway do not meet NHTSA standards but are in use. NHTSA is going to accept comments about headlight brightness until December 1st. Then the agency will determine the new standards.

Back in the 30's fog lights were called driving lights. You didn't see them on the cheap Model A's or Chevy's. Those lights were for the upper crust that could afford things that they didn't really need. After WWII spotlights were popular. Spotlights can come in handy and that's why police and emergency vehicles still use them. In the fifties the automakers went from two to four headlights just for styling reasons. Today we have halogen headlights with bulbs that cost several times more than plain headlights like the old 4001's and 4002's. We also have headlight covers or lenses that can cost several hundred dollars to replace.

So today we have people who think it is "cool" to have the brightest headlights, drive with fog lights on in daylight, blind others on the road with their bright lights, and pay a lot of money to do so. Not much different than the worthless snobs who drove those big luxury barges back in the 30's.

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