Monday, December 26, 2016

Speaking of headlights

Last week I wrote about automatic headlights. This week a short post on fog lights and when to use them.
It's pretty simple really - in fog.
When it's foggy, heavy spray or haze, foglights work better than main headlights because they're lower down on the car so you don't get as much glare back from the fog. The absolute last thing you should do is go to high beams because you'll reduce your ability to see with all the extra glare. That pretty much deals with front fog lights but what about rear ones?
In Europe we're all fairly used to rear foglights but here in the US they're still not super common. I didn't have them on any vehicle here until I bought my current Range Rover. None of the Japanese-manufactured American-market vehicles I owned had any.
Rear foglights, for the uninitiated, are either a single or a pair of rear lights that are considerably brighter than the tail lights, and in many cases, brighter than the brake lights. The idea is that it makes your car more visible from behind in poor weather conditions. They're manually controlled by a separate switch on the dash or one of the steering column stalks.
They are very useful in fog and heavy spray conditions where you'll notice the vehicles in front all but disappear because the tail lights simply aren't bright enough to penetrate the haze. If you see this happening, put your rear foglight on. When conditions begin to clear up, turn it off. Yes, I understand this requires an element of concentration, common sense and personal responsibility, but it's not that difficult.
What's a really interesting issue though is that American drivers are so unaccustomed to rear foglights that they tend to think they're brake lights instead. Last winter I was driving in some appalling conditions and there was a ton of spray. The guy behind me was way the hell too close - probably because he was target-fixating on my tail lights simply to be able to see. Once I lost sight of the car in front, I turned on my rear fog light and I think the guy behind thought I was brake-checking him because he slammed on his brakes and vanished into the spray behind me. The lack of any cars following up in my lane led me to believe he probably caused an accident.
It presented an interesting conundrum. Was I to blame? I did nothing wrong - I was maintaining my distance to the vehicle in front, and using my foglights in my own vehicle correctly. I can't be held accountable if the person behind me wasn't concentrating or didn't understand the meaning of fog lights. I certainly can't be accountable for him suddenly jamming on his brakes and causing the person behind him to rear-end him.
A little driver education goes a long way but in the increasing dumbing-down of the world, it seems even the most basic things are hard to teach now.