Diatribe: When it’s dark, shine your lights
BY AL VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media February 28, 2012 3:12PM
As most of you know, drivers who do not use turn signals are one of my biggest gripes in life. If I had my way, anybody who does not use turn signals would be sent to Chernobyl to enjoy the facility’s famous warm baths and be waited on hand and foot — which, if legend has it, will be the last identifiable body part left after a two-lap swim in its Olympic-size pools.
As much as I despise those who refuse to use turn signals, there’s another group that seems to be emerging and they have the potential to be a lot more dangerous than those who refuse to signal. I’m referring to people who don’t realize their lights aren’t on when driving at night.
I don’t know if this is a recent phenomenon or just something that has cropped up because of seasonal time changes. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become something of a daylight kind of guy.
My wife and I go out to dinner most every night because neither of us cooks and we’re empty-nesters. The nights we don’t both go out, I generally head out and bring something home. Usually when I’m by myself I notice the driving habits of others because I’m always looking for something that ticks me off and makes for a good column.
Lately I’ve noticed at least one or more vehicles daily driving down main highways with no headlights on. Whenever I see this I instantly know what’s causing it — there’s a vehicle that is not lit up. Doesn’t matter if it’s 6 p.m. or midnight — I’ve seen this occurrence at all times of the night.
If the vehicle is coming toward me, I’ll flash my bright lights on as much as I can to at least try and warn this fool that his lights aren’t on. That doesn’t always work. If I’m driving in the same direction I’ll try to pull up alongside this person and get his or her attention to tell them their lights aren’t on. I tried this the other day over the course of about two miles and what seemed like 2,627 beeps of my horn and I still couldn’t get the goof’s attention.
If I weren’t usually driving a manufacturer’s press vehicle — one that’s generally expensive — I’d be tempted to smash into these drivers in the name of humanity to avoid having some unsuspecting driver fall victim to their carelessness.
But I don’t have that luxury.
I know what the real culprit is. Most vehicles have some form of automatic headlight system (“auto” on your player’s guide) that will automatically turn the headlights on when the sensors detect approaching darkness. At times people may have inadvertently moved the light switch off this function but think it’s still activated. They may get into their vehicle in the late afternoon and before they know it, it gets dark. The fact that they’re in heavy traffic where everyone has their lights on (almost) gives them the feeling that their lights are on as well.
Personally, I don’t think a driver would make a conscious decision not to use his or her headlights in the dark, as opposed to those who voluntarily decide not to use their turn signals. So I think that even though punishment is both justified and necessary, unlike the turn signal scofflaw who has no good reason for failing to use this wonderful technology, drivers who don’t turn their lights on should be given at least one chance.
The first offense would result in either a warning or a session at traffic school. But if this happens a second time then, depending on whether he or she is right- or left-handed, the opposite hand should be removed at the wrist with a dull axe.
And should there be a third offense, the mandatory punishment is easy. This person can apparently see in the dark and thus has no use for eyes. Both eyes should be removed. It’s obvious that a three-time loser who continuously fails to put on his or her headlights when it’s dark wouldn’t miss them, so his or her eyes can be donated to someone who will use them.
Al Vinikour is a Midwest-based freelance auto writer. Proving a mind is a “terrible thing to use” he sometimes sits in traffic and ponders about things — generally auto-related — that make him mad. Believing the “pen is mightier than the sword” (and generally results in a whole lot less jail time), he vents his anger through a word processor and produces the Driver’s Side Diatribe column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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