Driving Light Laws: Bright or Dim?

by Aarne H. Frobom

Aging sports car drivers may remember a sporadic war with police over highpowered driving lights. Drivers dissatisfied with the inadequate sealed beam headlights of the 1960's bought the powerful quartz-halogen Marchal or Cibie lights used in rural Europe. Cops, on the lookout for anyone trying to be "different", pulled over cars with those funny headlights and wrote tickets for the extra-bright beams, even if the owners didn't use them except for rural roads. But we haven't heard of such an incident for fifteen years.

Now, it seems like every other car comes from the factory with "driving" lights under the bumper. Every character with a four-wheel drive pickup has a row of the things on top of the bumper, where they don't any good in fog, but shine right into other people's rear-view mirrors. None of the buyers seem to know that their original purpose was for peering down dark, deserted roads, and use them constantly on busy streets lit with streetlights. Luckily, most of the factory installations aren't very bright, but the glare is still a problem. Owners refuse to dim them when prompted with the traditional flash of high beams, and the worst of these dim-bulbs respond with an angry flash of their own bights.

New York now has a law that requires dimming auxiliary lights along with high beams in the presence of other traffic. Other states may soon have similar laws. What should NMA's position be? Are bright lights really a problem? Would a bill like this improve the driving environment, or would it become another law that goes unused by the police except as a source of harassment? New York State Chapter Coordinator Andrew Grefory points out that if not properly written or interpreted, anti-high-beam laws may prohibit drivers from flashing their high beams to signal other drivers to move over, or to warn of hazards--or speed traps. Please let us and your state chapter coordinators know what you think, and be alert for similar legislation in your state.

Source: July/Augest 1992 NMA News

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