As you know, Britain is a dark and dingey country in the depths of winter – the sun comes up late, sets early, and most of us nine-to-fivers travel to and from work in what is effectively the middle of the night. Yesterday morning was especially unpleasant – overcast and foggy – and, at 7.30, I found myself struggling to lift myself from what threatened to be a bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What made matters worse was that I ended up being inches from an accident. It was one of those things – waiting to do a right-hand turn from a suburban side road on a 20mph limited housing estate, I gunned it away when the road was clear, only to be nearly rear ended by a black Ford Focus. Where the hell did that come from? You know where this is going… no headlights.
After a bout and fist waving (from the young lady in the Focus, not me, I hasten to add), things settled down – and I thought I’d start paying attention to the matter of vehicle lighting; seeing just how many people are actually switching on when it’s at twilight on a grotty morning.
And the results aren’t encouraging. Driving along your average A-road in these conditions, you’re confronted with a mixture of no lights, side lights (dim-dip, but why the hell did we stop calling them parking lights?), headlights, foglights… and various combinations. The number of cars with defective lights – blown or badly aimed bulbs – is quite shocking too. Most Brits seem to be quite lax about such matters.
So, I asked an 18-year old friend who’s recently passed his test, what is it they’re actually taught regarding lighting-up… and, again, the response wasn’t encouraging. ‘Well,’ he mumbled, ‘when the streetlights come on, you should put your headlights on…’
What a load of rubbish!
This morning, I adopted sad mode and started counting up the unlit oncoming cars – at 7.15am – on a dark morning, and concentrated on four marques. The results were interesting in this unscientific study… during a 15-minute 12-mile drive, I counted:
So, what does that say about Vauxhall drivers?
And, more importantly, where does that leave us regarding safety? Surely it’s vitally important to be seen out there and yet – unless I am mistaken – new drivers are not being taught how to do this effectively. Okay, so you think that common sense would kick in but that cannot be taken for granted. And that leaves me with the thought that perhaps it’s time we adopted compulsory daytime running lights, like our Nordic cousins?
I remember it being floated by the EU a while back and thinking how sensible a policy it was – and yet dozens of classic car fans (I was on Classic Car Weekly at the time) were up in arms at the idea. Why? To me, it seems like there’s a lot to gain, and nothing to lose…
Oh, and please… switch on out there – there’s no point being hit by another car for no good reason.