The Lights that Blind

Often on this blog I’ve highlighted the importance of diversity, that we as humans are all different and we have differing needs, that one size fits all approaches never work. So, I wish to discuss a very disturbing recent development with cars, that has failed to respect diversity.

In recent times there has been a trend towards ever brighter lights on cars. I used to think that it was just a few modders not considering other motorists, but they seem to have become standard on many new cars. I am talking about Xenon and LED lighting.

The idea behind these lights is that they are more energy efficient (which is great) and enable the driver to see more with there headlights (which by itself is also a good thing). However such lights dazzle other road users. Technically this is illegal:

UK Highway Code Rule 114

  • use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders

However this rule is as far as I am aware never enforced and there is no upper brightness limit in law, so dazzle is defined as being subjective. So if I experience dazzle then technically a vehicle with these lights is illegal. Yet nothing is being done about this!

It’s all of the lights on a car thus fitted, which does cause problems:


More powerful headlights allow the driver to see more and may decrease some accidents. There has always been the problem of headlights at night causing reduced visibility to on coming drivers and drivers have developed strategies to cope with this. However when the brightness is increased the danger of decreased visibility to other drivers is increased which may increase accidents. There is a balance to be achieved here. However there is no mechanism in place to ensure the safest balance is achieved.

Day Running Lights

What is the point of these, other than to dazzle other drivers? They offer the driver no increased clarity, merely decrease other drivers vision.

Rear Running Lights

These are essential at night so other drivers are can be aware of other active vehicles. However, dazzling the car behind doesn’t help anyone. Most rear running lights are not too bright untilĀ brakes are applied

Rear Brake Lights

Perform the vital role of signaling following drivers of braking, that the car is slowing down and that the driver may have spotted a hazard ahead. However id they are too bright, as many of them are now, they dazzle the following drivers, causing them to be able to see less, which has no advantages.

Stationary Brake Lights

When I learnt to drive, the importance of Handbrake – Neutral was drummed into me. This action switches off the rear brake lights, mainly for safety in a collision but also to stop dazzling the driver behind.

Now, sometimes, we are lazy and we hold our cars on the foot brake. This didn’t cause dazzle problems for most people as the lights were not overly bright and on older models of cars the lights were lower down on the car body, more importantly below eye height, so the light wasn’t directly in the centre of the field of vision. This is an increasing problem as most drivers where I live have dropped the Handbrake – Neutral action when stopped temporarily and more worryingly some modern cars which switch the engine off to save fuel when stationary keep the rear brake lights burning holes in following drivers retinas, well give us sun spots anyway. The problem with this is that the following drivers eyes adjust to the bright light, so for a while afterwards their vision is dimmed, which has safety consequences.

So how did we get to a point where new cars are not designed to be safe?

Part of the issue is that we are all different and have different light sensitivity. I raised this issue with friends and colleagues and most people don’t find these brighter lights dazzling or a problem, even though their vision is still dimmed. However I realised that I am not alone, there seems to be a significant minority of people who are more light sensitive, for whom brighter lights are more dangerous.

Remember we are all different and even see the world in different ways. For example, I didn’t realise quite how prevalent various forms of colour-blindness are. So the needs of the light sensitive should be taken into account when designing and regulating cars on the roads.

There doesn’t seem to be any action on this front. I wrote to the government and they are not even looking into this issue. The difficulty is that the car manufacturers lobby governments for minimal regulations, as surely the market will regulate for safety as it is what drivers want.

However, in this case, market forces don’t work. If your car dazzles others it doesn’t affect you as driver, all you see is your slight improvement in visibility, the negative effect is suffered by other road users. But other road users have zero influence on your choice of car and it’s lighting. Having a really bright car that is more noticed may mean that there is a decreased chance of other people running into you, however when all cars are overly bright this advantage is lost and everyone is left with overly bright cars and the roads are overall less safe places.

It is simply dangerous to not consider the needs of others, especially when no wider advantage makes up for the loss of a particular minority. Everyday I witness inconsiderate driving that may cut a few seconds off someones journey only to slow down everyone else. What is more disturbing is when these issues are built into the cars themselves.

There is a potential solution. Driving spectacles have been developed to reduce light glare. Basically they have a yellow tint which filters out the UV/ blue light spectrum which reduces headlight dazzle. I’ll have to check these out!





German Mice

I have recently returned from a week in Germany. I haven’t travelled much in Europe as an adult. It was fascinating to see the culture which is often described as being most similar to the British. So, I will share my thoughts on German culture from a Welshmans perspective.

My first impression was crossing a road in the evening. There was the usual red and green ‘men’ of a British pedestrian crossing. however even with no traffic many Germans wait for green. In Wales we just cross when it’s clear and only use pedestrian crossings in busy places, regarding the crossing as ‘for the tourists’. I learnt that crossing on red in Germany is a prosecutable offense, which explains the behaviour. What this highlights is that Germans are different, but not so different, the British have this in-built desire to accept and follow rules too, but to a lesser extent. Also generally, in some ways the Germans are more conservative than the British, yet in other ways more liberal, it is difficult to see any guiding principles for the differences.

I was very pleased to discover that I am attracted to German women, not that they are inherently more beautiful than women in other countries, I just love their attitude, they are generally more practical. German women wear trousers most of the time and only wear dresses when it is hot and sunny, they are also unafraid to have short hair, both of these traits I find attractive.

Having said that the Germans lack style. It is odd to be in a country where people are less stylish than the British. Germans generally only wear dark colours, patterned clothing is rare, although stripes seem a current trend. I mean, come on, ‘stripes’ as ‘stylish clothing’ ? A guy purposely ran into me in the street, apparently because I was wearing a floral shirt and I might have been gay? Perhaps this is a difference, whilst Germans are generally more sensible, open and liberal, underneath this are possibly currents of homophobia and racism, that as a culture that haven’t had to deal with yet. As opposed to a more multi-cultural Britain.

Germany, as a visitor, isn’t as easy a place to be vegetarian. The cuisine I found odd in lacking sauces and lacking spices. The Indian restaurant i was taken too served very mild dishes, even though my host asked them to increase the heat for the British palate.

I appreciate that Germany doesn’t have the long relationship with India than Britain has, but currywurst was amusing to discover. Basically this is just a sausage with turmeric or other mild spices, but to imply that it has anything to do with what the British regard asĀ  curry is amusing.

Germany is a loss less densely populated than the UK. There is much more of a seperation of town and country. People don’t aspire to live in the country in Germany as the country is seen as dull and lifeless. Perhaps because German cities work so much better, the housing is better and the public transportation systems are better, not to mention the bike lanes used everywhere.

To me, Germany is a much more attractive society to live in than most of England. There is less of this divisive ‘class’ thing you often find in Southern England. The systems generally work, rather than the individual having to make them work, getting around the cities is much less of a headache.

The beer is cheaper and generally quite pleasant, much better than the crappy lagers I am occasionally forced to endure in Britian. British beer is sorely missed by my friend living in Germany. The Germans find Britain odd. when told that you can get good beer, good bread and even good sausages in the UK, but you have to know where to get it, rather than it being generally available. This is perhaps the big difference, generally things are better in Germany, good things are shared rather than hidden. What I’m getting at as that as a more cohesive conformist society, politically the Germans refuse to give up things that work well.

I think it all comes down to politics, the fact that Germany has a proportional voting system. unlike in the UK where ideological Thatcherism destroyed British society without any meaningful opposition. Hence Britain lost a lot of the glue that holds a culture together and we have become used to division in a way the Germans have yet to experience.

Basically, I had a lovely week and i feel I should visit Europe more, instead of far flung exotic places.