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Thread: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

  1. #1

    Default NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/23/a...etiquette.html

    Some of the advice from experts makes sense, but then I came across this:

    Experts recommended using your headlights to signal drivers to slow down because of a hazard ahead — a crash, some kind of wildlife, debris on the road or a disabled vehicle.


    At night in those cases, it’s better to switch from low beams to off instead of low to high, Mr. Van Tassel said.
    Wait, is this sound advice? I looked up Van Tassel's qualifications. He does seem to have a few more formal qualifications related to traffic safety than the average schmuck on the street.

    https://newsroom.aaa.com/wp-content/.../WEVT-Bio1.pdf

    Experts recommend keeping your headlights on low — even during the day — to improve your visibility to other drivers.
    This has me baffled too. Is this good advice? Perhaps the article is referring to daytime running lights.

    Your thoughts, please.
    Last edited by Ls400; 07-23-2019 at 05:54 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    Typically flashing high beams could confuse people as to an oncoming driver it can mean the other driver has their high beams on and need to go to low beams. A common thing I grew up with is flashing lights on/off to signal others oncoming of a speed trap and that would have them slow down and typically watch out (for police).
    As for running headlights in the daytime it typically depends on the driving conditions around you in an area with a lot of shade it can get dark enough that certain colors and types of vehicles are less easily seen headlights can help this. When I drive in the very early morning before and through dawn the sun is glaring right at me and cars without lights on are harder to see as the bright sun in the distance shuts down my vision making it seem darker around me than usual. There are a lot of cars that don't have daytime running lights.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    I would agree with everything there.

    It's no surprise that flashing bright lights at people isn't ideal, that seems self-explanatory.

    There are a myriad of situations in which visibility is reduced during the day, and situationally where car blends into the environment. For example, I drive West heading home, so I often face into the sun. On the back roads that have sporadic tree cover, there are sections where you loose visibility of the majority of the road going into a clear spot from some shade. DRLs or low beams eliminate this problem mostly because it provides two point sources of light that are visible when you are "blinded". They probably specify low beams because some cars don't have DRLs and other cars DRLs are super dim or are possibly just "running lights" being side markers and things, not main front lamps.

  4. #4

    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    Thanks guys, I re-read the article and I better understand it now, especially the part about switching from "low beams to off." In my initial reading, I thought, for some reason, he meant to permanently switch them off around the hazard. That didn't seem to strike me as particularly prudent. I can see how rapidly toggling between low-beams and off once or twice can send a better, less blinding message.

    At the same time, in my experience, it seems that it's easier to flick the high-beams on than to turn the lights off and back on again. At least in the cars I've sat in, switching from low-beam to off and back on is a more involved process than simply toggling between low and high-beams. In many cars, the high-beam stalk is spring-loaded and will return back to low-beam mode without any additional driver intervention. If switching from low to off to low again takes even a second, that's easily 50+ feet traveled in the dark, as 40 MPH is nearly 60 feet/second. ~40 MPH seems like a reasonable target speed to hit when travelling around hazards on a highway.
    Last edited by Ls400; 07-23-2019 at 08:32 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    To your point about ease of use- I think that's just how it all trickles and boils down in terms of how people have traditionally used those parts of the car. Those methods don't inherently involve modern thought or reasoning, nor are they necessarily related. Like how the clicking sound for turn signals is faked nowadays simply because people got weirded out by the fact that you could no longer hear the relays switching on and off in the dash as you could in older cars. On the flip side, there is reason to only momentarily use your high beams, I do it frequently on super windy roads, especially through mountains, so I don't accidentally blind the other poor soul traversing whatever god-forsaken highway I've decided to embark on.

    In the grand scheme of things, having to twist or turn a dial to flash on/off your lows isn't a large or arduous task. It is no more cumbersome than pulling the lever- being that in situations where you cannot physically remain in control of the car and perform an auxiliary action like twisting a dial, you shouldn't be performing any other action including pulling a lever. It might not be as ergonomic or muscle memory yet, but I don't have to look away to turn my lights on, or change the volume of my radio, or shift..... I think it's just a matter of getting used to it versus it being any harder to do.

  6. #6

    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    Quote Originally Posted by dotCPF View Post
    Like how the clicking sound for turn signals is faked nowadays simply because people got weirded out by the fact that you could no longer hear the relays switching on and off in the dash as you could in older cars.
    I've often heard the clicking sound but not noticed the indicator blinking on my turn signals and turned them off as the location of the indicators is in a place below the instrument panel that if one is concentrating on the road and quickly glances down you just don't see them. You have to turn your head or move your eyes a lot to notice them and in bright sun you can't see them at all. There are some old cars from the 50s/60s/70s I think that had turn signal indicators (blinkers) in trim on the hood. I've seen so many people who forget to turn on their blinkers that make it hard for me to anticipate what they are going to do like passing, slowing down, changing lanes etc that anything that can be done to remind them they are on is a bonus to better driving conditions.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: NYT Article on High-Beam Usage

    Quote Originally Posted by Ls400 View Post
    Thanks guys, I re-read the article and I better understand it now, especially the part about switching from "low beams to off." In my initial reading, I thought, for some reason, he meant to permanently switch them off around the hazard. That didn't seem to strike me as particularly prudent. I can see how rapidly toggling between low-beams and off once or twice can send a better, less blinding message.

    At the same time, in my experience, it seems that it's easier to flick the high-beams on than to turn the lights off and back on again. At least in the cars I've sat in, switching from low-beam to off and back on is a more involved process than simply toggling between low and high-beams. In many cars, the high-beam stalk is spring-loaded and will return back to low-beam mode without any additional driver intervention. If switching from low to off to low again takes even a second, that's easily 50+ feet traveled in the dark, as 40 MPH is nearly 60 feet/second. ~40 MPH seems like a reasonable target speed to hit when travelling around hazards on a highway.
    The problem is high beams can at times temporarily blind oncoming drivers and I've never heard of flashing high beams as a warning sign but typically when someone flashes high beams it is to tell someone else to turn OFF their high beams and in a group of cars they could be flashing at someone else's high beams on and you wouldn't know if that were the reason or some sort of warning ahead.
    The same thing about turning off headlights if you blind someone how long till they regain good vision from it that you travel? It may be even more than you having your lights OFF/ON. I've been blinded by high beams when my windshield was a little dirty from dust on it from working on/near construction sites. It may be for some easier to flick high beams for the driver warning others but if you blind the oncoming drivers by perhaps the position of your vehicle on the road (curves, elevation differences) with high beams they may end up having to recover from that distraction and not see what is coming ahead. Add to the mix people who have HID headlights and plastic hazed housings plus out of alignment headlights or heavy weights in the back of a vehicle that affect the headlights angle these can add to the chance of blinding oncoming traffic.
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