Dash lights don’t mean headlights

Street Smarts reader Steve Guinn wrote in following an earlier column reminding drivers to turn on their headlights.

He had a great theory about why it seems like we’re seeing more and more drivers forget to turn on their lights when it’s dark or foggy.

“I think people assume that, since their instrument panel lights are on, their headlights are on. But, on almost all newer cars, because of the nature of electronic gauges, the instrument panel lights are always on,” Guinn wrote. “I cannot imagine they are doing it on purpose. They just believe their headlights are on…”

The takeaway is to know your car’s settings — especially if you have a vehicle whose color makes visibility more of a concern — even if it has an automatic function.

“Since I have a gray car, I find I must manually turn my lights on some overcast days, as the sensitivity is not set to automatically turn them on at that light level,” Guinn noted.

On a related note, Guinn wondered if it’s time to revise our state’s law on when to turn on headlights to something more user-friendly than “at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead…”

For one, how about we just say whenever it’s raining, like a few other states clearly specify?

“Of all states, you would think Washington would want lights on when it is raining,” Guinn wrote. “One of my recent cars actually turned on the headlights if the wipers were on for more than a minute. It is nice that newer cars are doing a lot of the thinking, and even driving, for us. People are so distracted.”

Like the distraction of calculating 1,000 feet in a light drizzle while trying to turn left into traffic…

Have something for Street Smarts? Reach out at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com.

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