High Beams

Last night, I went to a Christmas party in the suburbs. The destination was off Route 40, out the Chelmsford-Tyngsborough way, down among the woodsy parcels along Dunstable Road. Now, is it just me or can it be said that every third person drives routinely with his or her headlights set to high-beam or “brights” as the default night setting? I’m getting older I admit, but I don’t remember having to squint and dodge as much in the old days when cars and trucks approached at night. The rule of the road is to click off the extra lights when another vehicle comes into view. Did that change in some manual that I missed? It is dark out there in the towns of Greater Lowell, so you need the added beams to find your way. I don’t want to sound like cranky Andy Rooney, but I’m curious about other people’s experiences. My friend Jack McDonough could have made an amusing radio essay of this topic for the old Sunrise program of WUML, 91.5 FM.

6 Responses to High Beams

  1. Steve says:

    I don’t like to drive at night anymore for the same reason. Someone told me that the new headlights are the problem. The eye doc said I have stigmatism I believe it’s called-which also contributes to an intolerance of bright lights.

  2. DickH says:

    I’ll join the chorus of fifty-somethings to break the bad news to you Paul – it’s not the headlights. As the owner of eyes that are running through the full checklist of maladies, I will attest that driving at night is not the effortless exercise it once was. Still, I’m not particularly bothered by it and under most circumstances don’t mind doing it, but it is more of a chore than in my younger days.

    In your defense, I do think many late model cars come with headlights that appear particularly bright to on-coming drivers, even when not on high beams. Plus, driving in the country without much other lighting from street lights, front porch lights, and corner variety stores magnifies the challenge. Back during our post-Halloween blackout, when I would drive or even walk through neighborhoods without electricity (like my own) I was struck by how much darker it was than under normal conditions when all kinds of subtle artificial lighting diluted the natural blackness.

  3. Marie says:

    I agree with Steve that these new lights are part of the problem – the color seems annoying and even distracting. But as Dick so rightly says – the aging process does make nighttime driving more of a challenge. As for the courtesy of dimming lights for the oncoming traffic – I see it as a safety thing – not sure if it’s in the rule book but then I’m convinced that many drivers have never seen a rule book. Having taken that same drive into rural Tyngsborough, I atest that it is really dark out there! I continue to shy away from nighttime driving unless it’s on a familiar path – like North Tewksbury to downtown Lowell and back or from Good Thymes to home via a drive thu’ the old Sacred Heart ‘hood.

  4. Corey says:

    I grew up in the neck of the woods (and yes, it’s very much the woods!) you’re talking about. You’re right – it is extremely dark out there and the increased traffic has never been addressed with wider roads, better sight lines, or more street lights. There are a lot of hills and cuves out there, which tend to point even low-beams in the wrong direction. Add in the fact that people out that way tend to drive a disproportionate number of SUVs, which have very highly mounted lights, and it’s a miserable night-driving experience.

    I’ve gotten in the habit of driving with my eyes fixed towards the power lines, looking for the glimmer of lights of oncoming cars many seconds before I actually see the vehicle directly. Eyes down and to the right, and if you’re both on your side of the road, you’ll pass each other and preserve your night vision.

    As somebody with a relatively low-slung car with Xeon lights, they are designed to actually provide a far more focused and brighter beam in the correct direction than the older, less-blue Halogens, which should make them better for oncoming traffic…on level and flat surfaces. As I said earlier though, the correct direction is usually unattainable in the ‘burbs. Furthermore, I don’t believe Xeon high beams are very common so those haven’t changed, and if you do stare into the headlights out in the ‘burbs, I think you’d be surprised how many of the cars are simply on low-beam.

    The dazzling blue headlights you see on souped-up subcompacts in Lowell are all kinds of illegal and do precisely the wrong thing – they aren’t the real Xeon deal.

    Conversely, I was just remarking how many drivers in Lowell are out with no headlights at all at night because the ambient light is so plentiful…

  5. DickH says:

    Regarding the Sacred Heart church property, back on August 23, 2011, Cardinal Sean sold it to Moore Street Development LLC whose principal is, according to the Secretary of State’s corporations website, is Brian McGowan of Lowell