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THE RANT: Caught In The Headlights

The Rant is your chance to get something off your chest. What really grinds your gears?  Here, Chris Hughes takes on daytime headlights.  Volvo drivers, be warned!


Hello, readers of CALM. I want to play a game. (Don’t look so worried at the back there; it’s only a teensy game of spot the difference). Allow me to paint a little scene for you:

It’s broad daylight and you’re trundling happily along a fairly quiet A road en route to work, using whichever method of personal transport you prefer.  Ahead, you spot a car. No problem. Now let’s look again at the scenario. Exactly the same, only that when you spot the car, you notice that said car has its headlights on.  Now I will concede there is one pretty obvious difference here but bear with me on this one. Headlights aside, is there really any difference? I’d put money on it that almost all of us would spot the oncoming car at around the same time, lights or none. A quick trawl of the internet suggests that the ethos behind those who use headlights/sidelights/fog lights during the day is that of making yourself more visible on the road. Er, sorry – but I’d say the vast majority of the road using populous are perfectly capable of spotting a sodding great tonne of metal coming towards us at speed in daylight hours. If you can’t – get to Specsavers, or get a bus.

With particular reference to fog lights, it just so happens that using said high intensity illumination devices when it’s NOT ACTUALLY BLOODY FOGGY (the clue is in the title) is illegal in the UK. Get caught and you face a £50 on the spot fine.

More often than not, new vehicles are also augmented with a neat little line of piercing white LED’s sitting somewhere around (or in the case of BMW, inside) the headlamps and looking as startlingly unnatural as Katie Price. Daytime running lamps, they call them. I have another word, but it’s something that would be highly unwise to repeat in print. Volvo have of course been including DRL’s on their cars for years. The Swedish firm is merely acting in line with laws in their native land, requiring that all vehicles have headlights switched on at all times. Fair enough, the law is the law and it makes sense in Sweden – a country that has precious little in the way of daylight hours during the winter months. But why then are more and more manufacturers in countries where you don’t need to have lights on constantly adding DRL’s? It’s appearing more and more but it’s the German marques that seem to be the worst offenders, with Audi, BMW and Mercedes all hopping on the bandwagon. I don’t doubt that with most new cars they still are an optional extra, but I for one wouldn’t like to meet any clot that ticks that particular box –  with the sole exception of Volvo. Those that order a new car from the company have a valid excuse; I have it on good authority that to have the daytime running functionality not installed they CHARGE you £400. Mind boggling, isn’t it?…

BUT. There is a far greater evil when it comes to automotive illumination. I’m taking about Xenon headlights. Lights on during the day is moronic, but high intensity Xenons at night is downright dangerous. I get the point of them and I don’t doubt they do increase visibility, better for the environment, save money, ya da ya da… but here’s the thing. If you’ve ever been followed down an unlit road by a car that has these equipped, they are absolutely blinding.

In one case a few years ago I was being followed by a Range Rover that had these fitted and I actually had to pull over because they were so dazzling that I couldn’t see ANYTHING. It was like being followed by the bloody Sun. It took a full five minutes before my eyes readjusted and I was able to continue. Save some sympathy for cyclists who have to peddle onwards into the blinding lights whilst also negotiating buses, HGVs and jay-walking pedestrians.  These retina obliterating creations will, I have no doubt, be the catalyst for a huge accident one day – if they haven’t already. It’s bloody frightening.

If you have something you want to rant about, send 500 words to

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