Saturday, July 10, 2004


See and be seen

H. Kishie Singh

CHANDIGARH enjoys the reputation of having the best-lit roads in the country. Why is it then that most drivers in the city drive with their headlights on high beam? Not content with that, owners of the new breed of cars come at you with four lights blazing. They are show-offs and irresponsible drivers, indulging in one of the most anti-social and dangerous activities on the road. It is also illegal. It is also one of the most frequent reasons for accidents. A blinded driver could go off the road, run over a cyclist, drive into an open manhole or worse still hit a manhole that is raised about half a metre above the ground.

It is an offence to drive with a high beam on city roads
It is an offence to drive with a high beam on city roads

An example of such a manhole is on the slip road from Jan Marg to Sector 17. The engineering department can surely do a better job. If you were to hit this manhole at exit speed, about 40 kmph, it will lift the front right wheel of the car off the road and definitely destabilise the car. There is a good chance that it may even flip the car onto its side.

Nowadays the police is busy challaning helmetless women. Why not extend this challaning to nail high-beam drivers? Our roads would be much safer without them.

A general rule of driving is drive as fast as you can see. In other words, you should be able to stop within the distance you see in your headlights. The low beam is designed by the manufacturer to see city streets. High beams are for the open highway, where speeds are higher and you need to see further ahead. However, the law, proper social etiquette, and good driving demand that you ‘dip’ your lights for an approaching vehicle, slow down and go back to high beam only after the vehicle has passed you. This is as much for your own safety as for all other road users.

The purpose of lights is to see and to be seen. Some days ago, I drove to Solan in the early hours of the morning. There was a grey sky overhead, no chance of sun, and the visibility was bad. Just after Parwanoo, the mist rolled in, and the visibility was further reduced. A few more corners and the heavens opened up. It poured buckets. Suddenly a bus or truck would loom out of the mist. No one had put on the headlights of their vehicles. It makes life easier and much safer if the on-coming vehicles have the headlights on and can be seen in such adverse conditions. You’ll also have to be just as vigilant about vehicles plying without headlights. Also, following a set of red rear lights is a great help. Glowing brake lights means the brakes are being used. The message is clear: you should slow down. And, keep the headlights on low beam. High beam dazzles even during the day.

If the police is going to stop a car for a challan, they could check a very important item necessary for roadworthiness and safety. Windshield wipers. For some strange and some unknown reason, some car owners remove the passenger-side wiper. It reduces visibility by almost 50 per cent.

Henry Ford once said about his cars. "You can have any colour you like, as long as its black." Bicycle manufacturers in India have the same views. On a badly lit rural road, where most of these cycles ply, they are almost invisible at night. The little white tail on the rear mudguard is not enough.

If your child rides a bike in the city, make sure there are reflectors on the pedals and the spokes of the wheels. May be the manufacturers can gave this some thought and make a contribution to society.

Happy motoring!