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Turn on those lights.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The belated arrival of real Oregon autumn weather, meaning wet and gray days, causes us to unpack our annual sermon on light. More specifically, on the need to use headlights when driving.

The dry, balmy weather that dazzled Oregon for too long this year probably benumbed a lot of motorists into forgetting the value of daytime headlight use. With shorter days, grayer skies and rain routinely in the forecast, motorists should re-learn the habit of automatically activating their headlights when they start their cars, SUVs and pickups.

State law requires that headlights be turned on only between sunset and sunrise, when pedestrians and vehicles aren't clearly discernible from 1,000 feet, or when a vehicle is part of a funeral procession. But common sense suggests - strongly - that motorists should turn on their headlights at other times, especially when the weather is, well, less than balmy.

The best rule of thumb is to turn on your headlights when you turn on your windshield wipers. And in these latitudes, from now to, say, June, that's most of the time.

You might hold the notion that headlights are only to illuminate the path in front of you. Wrong. They're also needed to allow other motorists to know you're there. That's especially important on dark, rainy days.

Here are a few simple rules:

If it's a dark and cloudy day, or if it's getting on toward dusk but visibility is still relatively good, turn on your headlights anyway. This signals your presence to others already in the roadway or about to enter it.

If your vehicle is a dark color or the color of the skies, your headlights should be on. Dark vehicles blend in with the background, especially as daylight is waning or when the roadway is damp. The same is true of vehicles colored November-gray. The headlights let others know you're around.

Turn on your headlights any time - any time - you turn on your windshield wipers. The law should require this as a matter of public safety, but, unfortunately, it doesn't. But a silent law doesn't mean that there is no connection between headlights and wipers. Logic alone dictates that if it's raining hard enough to require the use of of windshield wipers, visibility will be reduced. The headlights help you and others notice each other.

Activate your headlights during intercity travel, especially on two-lane highways but also on freeways, regardless of weather conditions or visibility. This is a recommended defensive driving technique that improves your safety and that of others.

Sermon over. Headlights on. Happy - and safe - fall and winter travel.
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Title Annotation:Gray, rainy days dictate headlights; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 19, 2001
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