Answer Man: Conspicuous cars cause fewer crashes

December 21, 2018

Dear Answer Man: What do you think is the most common excuse after a car crash? I think it’s “I didn’t see them.” So why are so many drivers not using their headlights when the law requires it — during rain, snow, and sleet? Just because it’s between the hours of sunrise and sunset doesn’t mean you don’t need your headlights on.

We live in a land of gloomy days and long shadows. If you are eligible for a “55 Alive” class you will be advised to turn on your headlights every time you drive. There, maybe we just helped stop a crash and even saved a precious life! — Lights On For Safety!

Dear Lights: First, let me compliment you on the beautiful sentence you used to describe not so beautiful weather. I doubt the Explore Minnesota Tourism will want to use “Land of Gloomy Days and Long Shadows” as our new state motto, but I’ve gone ahead and adopted it in my heart.

There are many things placed in my heart for safe keeping, but I can’t say that daylight headlight use has made the cut. If I were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau that may be different, as daylight headlight use is mandatory in our friendly neighbor to the north.

This fact comes to us from a 2010 report, “Transportation Research Synthesis,” by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The department compiled this 80-page report after the Legislature tasked the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to work with MnDOT to study the impact of 24-hour vehicle lighting.

Not everything is as timeless as the Answer Man, so it might be best to take this answer with a grain of salt as the research is from 2010. As we all know, much has changed since then in the world of vehicle technology (and in the world in general.)

Still, the report found a considerable body of research on this topic and most of those “studies have found that the presence of daytime running lights reduces daytime multiple-vehicle crashes, especially head-on and front-corner collisions where vehicle conspicuity is a concern,” the report states.

“The magnitude of the reduction varies, depending on the study and the type of crash, but many studies have found a reduction of 5 to 10 percent.”

As it stands now, Minnesota statute on vehicle lighting requires headlight use “at any time from sunset to sunrise,” “at any time when it is raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing,” and “at any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke, fog or other conditions or there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet.”

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