Amber running lights could be a problem in mandatory-headlight-use areas, police say


December 18, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

Signs stipulating mandatory headlight use went up recently along Route 32, between Route 108 and Interstate 70. That generated many comments, and the Nov. 20 Traffic Talk discussed this new safety measure for that stretch of road.

Lee Nelson wondered, however, how this affects vehicles with daytime running lights.

"My question, which would apply to any of the locations you mention that display `mandatory headlight area.' How does the law define headlight use?" she wondered.

She said that both of her vehicles have daytime running lights. "Since these lights are designed for maximum visibility during the day, and give way to automatic headlights during the night, I have always felt that these are the best lights to have on for daytime safety," she said.

But one of her vehicles has an amber-colored daytime running light instead of the traditional white light. Does this increase her risk of being pulled over by police for not technically obeying the headlight-use requirement?

"It is my understanding that the daytime running lights [on the cars where they are separate lenses] are aimed higher for better results during the day. However, I am not looking to debate this with a traffic officer," she said.

The amber lights could be a problem, says Howard County Police Officer Brandon Justice.

"Only daytime running lights that activate the clear/white headlights meet the required standard of this law. The running lights that are amber in color are parking light lamps and require the operator to manually activate their headlights," he said.

Justice clarified that the citation for failing to activate one's headlights in a mandated section of the roadway is "failure to obey a traffic control device," which would result in an $80 fine. The control device in this situation is the sign advising motorists to turn on their headlights, and as a primary offense, this allows officers to stop and cite violators whenever they are observed.

Justice noted that the fine for failing to have your headlights on at night is a different violation because it is qualified by a 1,000-foot visibility clause. Luckily, that does not apply to the Ms. Nelson's situation.

In the distance ...

"Is it me," wondered Scott Engles, "or has someone else noticed [that] driving south on U.S. 29, past the Gorman Road exit, is a sign for Route 216. The sign says the exit is three-quarters of a mile ahead. My trip odometer ... says it is actually one mile ahead. The next sign for Route 216 says it is a half-mile ahead, but once again, my trip odometer says it's a quarter-mile."

Pet peeves

With the recent winter weather come winter-weather pet peeves.

"Could you please remind EVERYONE to please clear ice and snow off the roof of their car before they start driving?" demanded Carol Vasques.

Adam Baldwin seconded her complaint: "People don't realize -- or are too selfish to care -- how dangerous snow flying off the roofs of cars and trucks is. It's probably the same drivers who only clear a tiny viewing circle from the frost on their windshields," he said.

I, too, worry about how many drivers carelessly leave their vehicles covered by snow. Every year, I see huge chunks of snow and ice flying off of sport utility vehicles and trucks. Often the vehicles behind them are swerving to avoid being hit by ice chunks, or they are driving blinded by the snow debris for a few seconds -- long enough for an accident to occur. But I've also seen drivers blinded by the snow on their front hoods.

Rolling igloos are not cool. Don't drive with snow or ice on the roof or on the hood of your car because you are too lazy to clear them. In addition to possibly hindering visibility of drivers around you, snow or ice could hit a pedestrian.

And Jeff Gardner offered excellent advice: "Don't forget to clean your headlights when cleaning your windshield."

This is the time of year that we examine ourselves and often decide to try to improve our behavior. What is your New Year's driving resolution?

What is your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at Traf, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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