I love driving, I find it an art and one that is hard to master. Unfortunately, across the world there are a lot of bad drivers. I’ve had my moments too; we won’t talk about that multi-storey parking garage incident back in Wales.
I am of the understanding however, that there is a high proportion of bad drivers in Ireland. It’s a combination of a lot of things I think. Mainly that they’ve been flung into the 21st century kicking and screaming, then there’s a dash of an inability to grasp there are other people on the road, and lastly a tinkling that some, if not a huge majority have not actually taken a driving test and only learnt to drive in the field behind their farm. That, I’m afraid to say, does not equal a driver. Even taking the test doesn’t make you a driver either. You have to understand the car you’re driving, understand how it handles on the road and have a good grasp of the techniques required from driving.
This is going to be my first rant of many, I’m sure. Today it’s about the use of the lights on the front and rear of the car.
First, citizens of Ireland, I must draw your attention to Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963. (S.I. No. 189/1963). Specifically paragraph 20. Here it states the lights that you should have on your car and how they should be fitted. Then it continues to say (paragraph 20 section 1a) that lights shall be used in lighting up hours for increased visibility, and if extra lights are fitted and required they should be used.
[...]that is to say:—the side lamps, rear lamps, rear projecting load lamp, lateral projecting load lamp, marker lamp and identification mark lighting.
However, it continues to say, in the subsections that these lights should be turned off under the following circumstances:
Sub-paragraph (i) of this paragraph shall not apply—
(I) For a reasonable period after the commencement or before the ending of lighting-up hours, provided visibility is adequate,
(II) while the vehicle is stopped in the course of traffic, or
(III) while the vehicle is being driven in conditions of good visibility on a road to which a speed limit under section 45 or section 46 of the Act applies and which is provided with a continuous system of public lighting affording illumination equivalent at least to that afforded by dipped head lamps.
So, for those of you I lost when I mentioned the law. This is saying that you have lights on your car. That in circumstances between light-up and light-down you should have headlights on, any additional lights should be used in times of reduced visibility. Anything that you have turned on in addition to your headlights should be turned off in the above stated cases. But, you all knew that, right?
It then continues to mention that if the atmospheric conditions deem it so, then fog lights may be considered headlights for the purposes of paragraph b of the above sub-article. With me so far? So, by law during the period just after light-up and just before light-down you must have your headlights on, additional lights on you vehicle may be lit as long as it’s not during the specified situations above. Fog lights in the correct atmospheric conditions can be, and will be considered headlights.
(c) Where two fog lamps within the meaning of article 44 are fitted and each lamp is so placed that no part of the vehicle extends laterally on the same side as the lamp more than 16 inches beyond the illuminated surface of the lamp, such lamps when used in fog or while snow is falling may be deemed to be head lamps for the purposes of paragraph (b) of this sub-article.
Quoted above is section c, sub-article 1, paragraph 20. The bolding is my own. I just wanted to make sure you all understood how the law defined poor atmospheric conditions. It also clarifies the classification of fog lights as headlights while driving about in bad atmospheric conditions.
Now we have the law understood let us move on to the definitions. Firstly, I would like to clarify poor atmospheric conditions. It comes down to, very basic levels of understanding of, how far you can see. The law doesn’t define this term. However we all know what fog looks like, right?
Now I want to run through how to use your lights. For the purpose of this lesson I am using Napoleon, who is a Renault Scenic mkII 2003. Your vehicle may differ but the symbols, I will guarantee you, will be 100% the same.
This is Napoleon with his side lights on. Side lights should never be used on their own as you are driving, they are also known as parking lights. These are only to be used when you park up on the side of the road, with your hazards. You must turn off your headlights when parked as these can glare and dazzle other drivers. The second picture serves to show you what your dashboard will display.
In these next two pictures we see Napoleon with his headlights on. Some people call these their dipped beams and in most, if not all modern European cars these lights can be adjusted up and down, and left and right so they point on the road away from on-coming cars. If you car is right hand drive, and you’re going to a country with left hand drive as the prominent alignment then it is wise to have your lights adjusted to compensate. There is also law that states how far these lights must illuminate as well as how they should be aligned.
Above we can see Napoleon with his full beams on. Other people call these high beams too, as they point straight up and out and will always blind on-coming traffic. You are required to have these lights off in public places, in built up areas lit with public lighting and at all times when you can see the rear lights of a car in front or the lights of a car coming towards you. There is no reason to have these lights on if you can see other people.
We can also note that the symbol in the dashboard is strikingly different from the other two previously as it is now blue. Generally the action to turn on the full beams is different to the previous two settings, on Napoleon we twist the stick on the steering column once for sides, once more for headlights and then we pull the stick towards us until it clicks for fullbeams, and once more to turn them off. To flash another driver we pull the stick just enough before it clicks.
Here we can see Napoleon with his full compliment of lights on. At no point, ever, at all while I am driving will all these lights be on at the same time. Ever. Fog lights point to the road immediately in front of the vehicle and as such reflect light up from the road for better visibility. You should only use these lights if you are driving in fog or low visibility brought on by snow. You should never use these lights in rain or during the day, or at night when it isn’t either foggy or snowing. They reflect off the road and dazzle on coming cars, much like your full beam lights do. Also you must NEVER, never use your full beams in times of reduced visibility. As they point straight up and out the light bounces back and dazzles you, actually acting to reduce your visibility. Hence why I mentioned previously that I never drive with all these lights at once, because if you’re in need of fog lights you can 100% be assured that full beams will not help.
Inside Napoleon we can see that the dashboard clearly shows us when our fog lights are on. The front fog lights are optional extras in a lot of cars, however the rear one is required by law (at least in the UK it is). The front one is green, the light is pointing down and a squiggly line symbolises its need during reduced visibility. The rear one is red and much the same. In Napoleon I have two lights because my front and rear fog lights work independently of each other. This means I can have my front fogs on but not my rear ones and visa versa. In the vast majority of vehicles this is not the case. If you have the front on you will always have the rear on too.
Here we have a rear view of Napoleon and his fog light. These generally do not come in pairs, and usually sit opposite the reversing light on the car, some vehicles will have the light at the bottom of the car (Eddie had his fog light in the middle of his rear bumper).
You can clearly see in the low quality photo that the rear light is a lot brighter than the other lights present, it is about the same brightness as a brake light. And as such we can safely assume that if you have your rear fog light on you must always turn it off when in a line of traffic or being followed by another driver. These lights will, and always do, dazzle the driver behind and are again, against the law to have operating when the situation does not call for it.
The conclusion we can draw from this small lesson is this:
- Your car is fitted with a set number of lights that may or may not include front fog lights.
- The law clearly states the operation times for these lights and any vehicles that may be exempt from this law (if you drive a car, safe bet you are not exempt).
- You turn your full beam lights off in built up areas, in public places, while behind another car or while another car approaches you and in fog or snow fall.
- You turn off your rear fog light during fog when in a line of traffic, in a built up area, and while another car is following you.
- You turn off your front fog lights during fog when in a built up area.
- You turn off both sets of fog lights when driving in any conditions that are not snow fall or fog.
To summarise, if I ever see another person drive with their fog lights on during the day, or another person who doesn’t turn their full beams off, or doesn’t know their rear fog light is on I will chase you down, run you off the road, smash all the lights on your car before I drive off cackling like a mad woman.
Absolutely no love,
Here in ends the first lesson for The Drivers of Ireland.