Experts Warn Against This Common Response to Oncoming High Beams
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Some rules of the road are more set in stone than others. Disobeying speed limits and going seatbelt-less can be penalized with a ticket while coasting in the left lane or failing to signal probably won’t get you more than a middle finger from an unhappy driver.
Drivers have their ways of dealing with people on the road who aren’t following traffic etiquette, some of which are more polite than others. But one faux-pas is harder to respond to—the oncoming driver who left their high beams on.
The most common reaction to this tear-inducing mistake is to flash your own lights back, but safe driving experts say doing so is a mistake that could cause a car accident.
High beams can easily blind and disorient oncoming drivers.
Why you shouldn’t flash your high beams at other drivers
Driver training programs are moving away from the once-common practice, according to the New York Times. The reason for the change has to do with the condition of the offending driver.
Some people have an easier time seeing in the dark than others, and flashing high beams in the eyes of someone already struggling with their vision can be disorienting—especially if they’ve been drinking.
In the Times report, William E. Van Tassel, the manager of driver training programs at AAA’s headquarters in Heathrow, Fla., says flashing your high beams can also cause what’s called the “moth effect.” Rather than send the intended message, the bright lights could mesmerize oncoming drivers and draw them toward you.
Instead, Tassel says the safest thing to do is just “let them go on by.”
High-tech solutions to oncoming high beams
“Letting them go on by” is easier said than done, especially if the oncoming vehicle is raised or if nothing separates your lanes except a yellow line. Thankfully, engineers have developed technology to deal with the problem.
The current solution in the United States, high-beam assist technology, senses oncoming traffic and cuts your high beams automatically. The high-tech headlights were introduced in luxury vehicles already in the mid-2000s, but the Globe and Mail says they went mainstream in the last few years.
In Europe, automakers have gone a step further with what’s called “adaptive driving beams.” Instead of simply shutting high beams off, these lights change direction to avoid blinding oncoming drivers.
The next step in headlight evolution is still waiting for approval from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) before they’re allowed on American roads.
The low-tech way to safely handle headlight glare
If you aren’t lucky enough to be driving toward someone with some kind of smart headlight system in their car, the best thing you can do to avoid temporary blindness is to avert your gaze to the side of your lane and wait out the light-daggers until the car passes.
The same tactic works if the high beams are behind you, though it works better if you redirect your rearview mirror as well.
Car insurance options for the worst-case scenario
Not all accidents caused by high beams or headlight glare can be avoided. To make sure you’re covered for every predicament, it’s a good idea to add collision insurance to your policy.
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