Don’t dazzle while you drive

Driving on a high beam and flashing headlights are illegal.

July 03, 2015 03:18 pm | Updated 03:18 pm IST

Drive at a low beam to avoid accidents. File Photo: R. Ravindran

Drive at a low beam to avoid accidents. File Photo: R. Ravindran

Headlamps are as essential to a motor vehicle as our eyes are to us. However, when we misuse them, we could end up endangering ourselves and others on the road too. The quieter streets, especially ones that don’t have lamps or a median, primarily face this issue. People often drive using blinding high beams, and when the streets get narrow, they flash their headlights requesting, or rather, proclaiming their right of way.

While most of us are aware that using the high beam within city limits is illegal, few of us know that flashing headlights is illegal too. Yes, rapidly flashing one’s headlights, or as the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicle Rules (TMVR) calls it — dazzling — is against the law and not just an ethical misdemeanour. Section 495 stipulates that the ‘lights are not to be used or manipulated in a manner that causes danger or undue inconvenience to a person by dazzle’. It also mandates the blackening of the centre portion of the light so that oncoming drivers aren’t inconvenienced.

High beams are a provision in our vehicles, that help illuminate a longer path of the road so that drivers have more reaction time when travelling at high speeds. Quite obviously, our city streets, even without steep speed bumps, are in no way conducive to high speeds. Then why use the high beam in the first place? A cab driver, who wishes not to be named, justifies himself by saying that oncoming vehicles may or may not beam their lights at his eye level, and in either case, he has better visibility if he uses high beam. This creates a dangerous situation as pedestrians and cyclists are barely visible from afar. Dazzling is illegal in most western countries too. In the U.K., ironically, when it is used, it is done as a courtesy to convey that you are allowing the oncoming driver to pass through. Even in the U.S. and Australia, it is sometimes used only to warn oncoming drivers that there is a speed camera or a checkpoint ahead.

Pitiably, it is unlikely that any of us will be stopped or fined for using high beams or flashing headlights, due to sheer lack of awareness among citizens and law enforcers alike. So, like most social problems, the change here must come from us. It takes very little effort. Let us proactively make our chauffeurs and cab drivers more aware and not conveniently hide behind their ignorance. vikram.mankal@gmail.com

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