driving Morons on the road

Note to self

My car is dark grey. A recent study found that dark-coloured cars are more prone to accidents. In the rain, like this morning, I drive with my lights on, for visibility.

It’s like my friend Merlin, who rides a motorcycle. Where he lives in Canberra, you apparently don’t have to ride with your motorcycle headlight on (or didn’t, when I asked him about it a few years ago). But he said “my bike is road-coloured, so I do”. Sounds fair enough.

But note to self: Turn car lights off when parking.

That way, I won’t get back to it 9 hours later and find the battery flat and have to call the RACV guy and run the motor for a while to get the battery charged again. Like I did tonight.

On the bright side, at least I didn’t park it like this, across two parking spaces:
Car parked midway between two spots

Or go driving like this:
Taxi going the wrong way down a one way street

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “Note to self”

A couple weeks ago I had to stop and wait for a 4WD to do a 3 point turn in front of me. He backed up, then went forward and hit the curb, went over the curb and onto the footpath, then backed up again, forward again, this time purposefully onto the footpath and around, almost hitting a person who came walking around the corner!
I wonder if he’d ever done any ‘real’ 4WDing. :) It’s amazing what people get away with!

A friend and former colleague had a salary sacrifice car (a Holden, I think), and apparently it is/was mandated that they have the lights permanently on whilst the car is running. Including ~30 seconds after the car had been turned off. Which meant that every time he parked in a shopping centre, well meaning people would chase after him to tell him he’d left his lights on.

But, given all the electronics and stuff built into cars – you’d think that they’d turn the lights off automatically if battery charge dropped below some pre-determined point and/or the lights had been on for (x) period of time.

I’m really excited by my car. The headlights turn off when the engine is off and the door is open.

Some cars (such as Commodores and most European cars) are programmable to the extent that they will leave the lights on for a few seconds after you lock them so you can find the house in the dark. Then they’ll turn them off.

And most newer cars will turn off their lights (all will at least sound a warning) if you leave them on when leaving the car. If your car doesn’t do that, you can buy a buzzer for $3 from Dick Smith or similar, and a relay for about $5, and hook them up in the right way to sound the buzzer if the lights are on when you open the door.

On the study about car colours, the authors found about a 10-12% increase in crash risk for cars that are not white. Grey, silver, green and black were all within the 10-12% range which makes them effectively equal.

The authors also pointed out that the safety benefit of using headlights or daytime running lights (which are lower powered headlights) may counteract the increased risk of the non-white colours, but they don’t have the data to prove it at this stage. My money is on the lights solving the problem, and I use my lights whenever the sun is not high in the sky (which means I have them on most of the day in winter).

most newer cars will give a warning if the lights are left on – my car has an ‘auto’ switch for the lights, they go on when it’s dim or dark, and switch off automatically about 5 seconds after I lock the car. very clever!

Make sure you don’t use the Auto switch if you want the car to be more visible though. The point of using lights during the day is to make the car visible, and an auto function won’t turn them on unless it’s dark. It’s when the sun is low in the sky, turning your car into a shadow for the people in front of it, that the lights are most important.

1986 Mazda 323 came with a lovely feature as standard. As mentioned, it is available from Dick Smith. So simple, so cheap, such a wise investment. All this fancy new crap with lights going on and off automatically just means there’s something else to break down. A nice piercing beep is all that’s needed!

You’ll notice that a lot of [overseas ?] emergency vehicles are now appearing in much “brighter” colours than the more traditional white and red – often yellows and oranges. This is because a study done quite some years ago [and, no, unfortunately I don’t have the reference :-( ] showed that the most visible colours for vehicles were bright pink [a la the old Farley and Lewers cement trucks and the Strike-Me-Pink Toranas], bright orange and that almost luminous bright yellow [but who wants to drive around in bright pink fire engines and ambulances?]

Check next time you’re driving on sealed roads in the rain to see just how *in*visible white cars can be against reflected grey skies on wet tar.

And never let anyone tell you that parking lights on in low light conditions make your car visible. They don’t!

I read that article when it came out, and then wondered what my accident risk was. Then I realised that the number of orange cars involved in accidents is probably statistically insignificant :)

(And no, I still can’t believe I actually deliberately ordered a new car in orange. Like it a lot though).

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