Descent of the red mist
At this time of year, when the days are short and the mist swirls in Dickensian cliche, a familiar horror once again stalks our streets. A source of great frustration and no small danger pollutes our roads. Quite literally, a dazzling light is being shone into the eyes of the drivers and riders on our public highways. It is the scourge of the high intensity rear fog-light.
The reasons why this terrible device ever became a feature of our cars is a mystery to me. My best guess is that it is one of those ideas which looks good in theory, but falls sadly short in its application. Even without factoring in the human element, I am at a loss to think of any situation where these lights provide any improvement in road safety. If there is no vehicle visible behind, their use is merely a waste of fuel. If the headlights of a following vehicle can be seen, there is a risk that they will not see my brake lights – increasing the likelihood of them not noticing when I brake and consequently driving into the back of my car. Perhaps the only purpose of these lights is to identify cars which are being driven by people with poor judgement so that the rest of us may give them a wide berth.
All licence holders are required to have read and understood the highway code – the rules which govern our use of the roads. It is one of the terms to which we agree when we sign our driving licence. This is what the highway code has to say in rule 236:
236. You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
Law RVLR regs 25 & 27
Sadly, it seems that too many drivers have not read, or do not understand, enough of this important publication. I was reminded of this just the other day, whilst I was driving home in only a very light mist. The visibility (even though it was slightly after dusk) was the best part of half a mile. The car in front of mine, which had just emerged from a roundabout, suddenly immersed me in a surfeit of red light. I wanted to look away to avoid being dazzled, but as we were in slow moving traffic, I could not. I had to concentrate on the back of the offending vehicle in order to stand a chance of seeing when their brake lights illuminated.
So, how should I respond to these thoughtless drivers? Obviously, anger is not a sensible option. I have no desire to become another road-rage statistic. Whilst switching on full beam headlights would give me a certain satisfaction, it would also dazzle oncoming motorists. Two wrongs don’t make a right and I have no desire to inflame or compound the idiocy of others. I guess my best option is to overtake the offending vehicle as soon as it is safe – and then resist the urge to switch on my own high intensity rear lights once I am in front of them.
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