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Posts Tagged ‘glare’

black and white lights sun ray of sunshine

Photo by Little Visuals on Pexels.com

For the last couple of years on the road, I’ve dreaded the dark commutes of late November through to late January. It used to be that the biggest danger facing a motorist over winter was the weather, but now it’s other people. My journey involves several stretches of unlit, country road, but these are becoming no-go zones, and I’d rather take a long detour than risk them.

At night, regardless of what the limit actually is on a stretch of road, you adjust your speed so you can pull up within the cast of your dipped beams if you need to – that’s the theory at least. But now it’s impossible to see the road at all when there are cars coming the other way, coming at you with very bright headlights – so bright your vision whites out. And if there’s a long line of these vehicles, it makes seeing your way a real struggle, to say nothing of dangerous and stressful. Add some heavy rain into the mix which exacerbates the glare, and these roads are barely passable at all now. I’ve been arriving at work this week still in the pre-dawn with my eyes burning, and have concluded that were it not for that commute I’d be giving up night-driving altogether.

I wondered if it was me, if my eyesight was shot, but the optician says not, well not yet anyway. In fact super-bright headlights are now a major problem, one that’s largely unreported, but it takes only a little research to learn just how dangerous they are, that they’re being cited more and more as a cause of road traffic accidents, including fatalities.

Indeed, the RAC reports that 70% of drivers are struggling with night driving now, purely on account of dazzle from headlights, that the problem has arisen in the last few years with the rise of LED and Xenon beams, and has reached a stage where many of us are unable to tell if an oncoming vehicle’s lights are dipped or on full beam, because they’re so powerful. Cars aren’t the only problem. I was forced to pull over suddenly one night when a peleton came at me down a dark lane, all with super-bright bike-lights seemingly targeted directly at my eyes.

Surprisingly, regulation is rather dated – like from the 1960’s – and somewhat lax, being more concerned with beam alignment than actual power. Luxury vehicles are a particular problem, tending to have the most powerful lights, also SUVs and vans where the headlights are set much higher than a saloon car – combine that with a powerful beam and you have a real problem.

Other than tightening the regulations, there seems to be no solution, and I doubt anyway if all those luxury car owners are going to have their headlights retrofitted with dull old halogen, like the rest of us. You can go the other way of course, upgrade your mediocre beams to something more killer-bright,  but that’s only adding to the problem.

I used to enjoy night driving as a kid – there was something relaxing about it. But there was half the traffic back then, and no one was trying to blind you in the name of their own personal visibility. I suppose its just one more thing we have to accept as inevitable, that the future isn’t what it used to be. As for me, I’ll be retiring from the commute at the end of this year, and not before time because by then the headlights will be so bright they’ll be burning the paint off each others cars.

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I had a near miss, this morning. I was coming up to a mini-roundabout, another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, a big car, ostentatious, with its ultra-bright HID “F*$k You” headlights on, even though it was broad daylight. I thought he was going straight ahead, because I didn’t see the blinking amber of his indicator light. So it was a surprise when he cut across my bows, so to speak, and cut across them really fast. I was lucky, had time to react, stood the car on its nose. He had time to react as well, with an offensive finger.

It’s possible he indicated. I don’t know. I’m finding with these really bright headlights, they fuzz out my vision and I can’t see anything else, especially not a relatively puny blinking indicator lamp tucked in close to the epicentre of that laser like HID blast. And that’s in daylight. Meet one of these monsters at night on an unlit twisty road and you’re heading for the ditch. Or maybe I’m just getting too old to be on the road, too long staring at computer screens, eyesight too wasted now to discern the important details any more.

Nah, the optician says I’m fine.

Anyway, those long promised robot cars are coming, and they’ll avoid awkward situations like that. The well heeled finger jabber with the HID headlamps and I will be sitting back, flicking on our phones, while the cars are doing all the driving and the talking to one another. Each will know what other is doing, adjust speed so they manoeuvre smoothly around one another without so much as a dab on the brakes. Maybe those big cars for rich folks will even have superior algorithms capable of gaming the traffic flow to their advantage. I mean, otherwise what’s the point of paying a lot of money for a car if it isn’t going to steal a march on those less well off?

This morning was just a commute in my old Ford Focus, an A to B, and fair enough, they can be a bit of a drag. A robot car would save me time, allowing me to eat my porridge while the computer did the driving, and presumably took all the insults on my behalf. But is that really what we want?

This evening was different, I managed to avoid near misses – true the roads were quieter when I backed the Mazda, my other car, out of the garage. The Mazda is not a commuter mule – I keep her strictly for fun. It was about half an hour before sunset and the temperature had dropped to nine degrees. The vinyl top was too cold to risk folding back, so I made do with the other pleasures afforded by this little car, and I just went for a drive, windows down, feeling the air, tasting it, smelling it.

She’s laid up most of the working week especially over winter, so I like to get her out and give her some exercise of an evening whenever I can. Already I’m anthropomorphising. Cars don’t need exercise like humans do, but it’s as well to keep the battery topped up and the oil lining the cylinder walls, and the belts all moving. Still, I like to think of it as exercise, and she seems to enjoy it that way too.

I have this scenic little circuit that I do. It was a beautiful evening, clear sky, deep blue above, fading to azure at the horizon. And it’s a wide horizon out here in the West of Lancashire, but you’ll miss it if all you’re doing is flicking on your phone, and that would be a shame.

In this car you don’t need to be going fast to feel the thrill of movement – yes, movement! You can take the corners without any degree of body roll, thread your way through a series of left and right-handers, flicking up and down the box as the note of the engine tells you. And at some point, she’ll get into her stride, and you in hers, and you’ll press the gas and she’ll respond with a rush. This is no longer driving. This is dancing on air. No A to B, more a silver fox in an old MX5, dancing in the last light of an early Spring evening.

It won’t be the same with a robot. They’ll never be able to dance for a start. They’re dead things. Nothing human about them at all. Nothing human either in just wanting to get from A to B, yet that’s mostly what we do these days. And when the whole world is robotised and we’re all lobotomised, glued to our phones, flicking mindlessly at all that rubbish, and those times we drove simply for the pleasure of it are but a dim and distant memory,…

What then?

in martindale

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