“Behind the wheel, seeing means surviving.” This road-safety slogan was originally aimed at getting drivers to test their eyesight. It applies equally well to automobile lighting. Seeing and being seen are two key safety considerations for car-users. We run through the details.
The bulbs used by leading carmakers are constantly improving, while the latest-generation technologies, like LEDs, are becoming increasingly durable. Over time, however, all such light sources lose intensity, even if LEDs do so 20 times more slowly than halogen. It’s only logical. Headlamp lenses don’t last forever either, and their clarity suffers. As a motorist, your mission is always to see and be seen by checking your vehicle’s lights on a regular basis. For safety’s sake, of course, but also because faulty lights can seriously damage your wealth.
Road Safety and Your Wallet
The Highway Code is perfectly clear on the matter. Any vehicle with defective lights, such as a faulty bulb for example, can be stopped by the police. There’s no escaping the regulations on lighting. Headlamps with a range of less than 100 meters can get you into trouble even when the weather is fine. The same goes for stoplights that don’t work or turn lights that don’t flash. The bottom line is that breaking any of these regulations can earn you a fine.
What’s more, of the many individual checks in a typical vehicle’s periodic safety inspection, several will relate directly to the lenses and lights. They represent the second-largest cause of follow-up inspections. In conclusion, you’re better off checking that all your vehicle’s lights work properly and that the headlamp lenses are neither cracked nor yellowed with age.
Changing Bulbs is Not Enough
The first (correct) reflex is to change the bulbs. And even if only one looks to be failing, it’s better to change them in pairs to keep the same intensity of light, both right and left. Looking beyond the lights themselves, it’s important to check the lenses or covers. If they’re dirty or have deteriorated over time – age and UV rays can turn some plastics yellow – a new bulb won’t light as effectively as it should. On average, a lens in poor condition can cut light intensity by 20-30%.
Finally, effective lighting needs adjustment so that you can see far ahead without blinding other drivers. A beam that’s misaligned upward by only 1% can increase the risk of dazzling by a factor of 20. A 1% downward misalignment cuts the driver’s view by 30 meters on average. Ideally, you should use professional help (like a vehicle-testing center or garage) with the necessary equipment to ensure your headlamp beams are correctly aligned.
These vital yet simple, common-sense steps let you take to the road worry-free.