2008-09-26

Lights on, that includes you, BMF

This is a pet-love-hate topic of mine, but I haven't aired it here on the blog yet. I was thinking of writing about it on my "proper website" but I've never got around to it.
Anyway, EU has put through legislation that requires all cars to have daytime running lights (DRLs) by 2011. This would mean that you can now see which cars are running by looking at them and checking whether the lights are on or off. In my opinion this is good. But many bikers think this is a bad thing.
You see, many many many bikers, including the BMF, live in a belief that because bikes run with the lights on, they're distinguished from cars. They also believe that if you put your lights on during the day in your car, then you're more or less masquerading as two bikes. To me this edges on pure bullshit (there, I said it!).
Admittedly this fact is true, but only if you decide to look at it from this narrow perspective. You see, the "fight" is not bikes versus cars. Really, it's not. Try to get over that for a second. Then find out what the "fight" really is about. In my opinion the "fight" is about life versus death. Notice that I'm not pointing out bikers or car drivers in particular, but everybody. All of us. It's about getting home safely so you can hug your partner and have a cold beer. That's what it's about.
To me, humans are, by definition, humans. That is, we make mistakes. We screw up, we're engrossed in something that's distracting, we're simply put quite bad when it comes to paying attention and foreseeing things. This (and lack of skill) is what causes "accidents', or should I rather use the word "incidents" as accidents "just don't happen", they usually take a human to make them.
Therefore, it's a good thing to have some sort of system telling other people that "a human is about". In this case, you put your lights on in your car to signal to everybody around you that there's now a stupid human being operating the vehicle. That includes you (and me). If you spend time in traffic at all, I'm sure you've had a personal experience with one of these situations;
You're driving down a residential street, you're being very observant, you're not feeding your kids or reading the Financial Times, and suddenly a car just jumps out at you. You almost panic, but realise you don't have to. All is well.
In a similar situation you're still in a residential area, and you come to a tiny T-junction. You give all cars a quick look, you even look both ways, and just as you're pulling out, you notice something in the corner of your eyes; THAT CAR IS MOVING!! Brakes..!! All is well.
Or another situation. You're driving down this nice country lane one sunny Saturday (or whatever day it was), the road turns, you're enjoying your meagre existence, and out from the shadow jumps a car. BAM! There it is. Luckily you're not trying to change the CDs in your CD changer in the boot at this time and you're the correct side of the road. All is well.
These situations are all situations where a fraction more reaction time would be a very good thing. Luckily it's easy to fix these situations; Put your lights on. It's as easy as that. If a human is piloting the vehicle; have the lights on.
What BMF and other "experts" in the subject doesn't get is that it doesn't matter whether it's a car or a bike. On top of all this, this "lights for bikes only"-theory goes totally against the grain of the first motorcycling rule; "Ride as if you were invisible". What this means in practise is that you should treat every other member of the road as if you were invisible and that they haven't seen you, and can therefore act in an "unpredictable" manner. Why should bikes have the exclusivity of "being seen". Why do bikes "need to be seen" more than cars, especially as a motorbike and it's rider weighs around 250kg and a car weighs around 1500kg. Isn't the car a much more dangerous "weapon"?!
As I stated above, it's not about bike versus car, it's about human survival. And if we mark the all vehicles that have humans in them, humans that make mistakes, with lights then I sure think it's a very good thing.
Now, before I stop this rant, I'll give you two things. First, I've lived in countries where dipped beams have been mandatory outside of towns, end result being that lights have pretty much been on all the time, and this has probably saved my bacon a few times.
Sadly, I'll negate all of this; I've not seen a single piece of statistics stating that countries who have mandatory lights-laws have fewer accidents than countries that don't have it. I guess this all comes down to what I stated earlier; Humans are stupid. You can't teach pork. The easiest thing that you can do to prevent accidents is to not have accidents. I.e educate yourself in the subject (go to a skid-pan, practise emergency braking, etc), be vigilant, be observant, and don't read the bloody map when you're driving.
In the mean time, please, lights on!

7 comments:

Tooony said...

You forget one angle to it... ;o)
How much extra fuel (petrol, diesel, LPG, ethanol or such) will be used up. Just in the name of "safety"? A car and most bikes have two head lights at 55 W each.
That is 110 Wh per hour and vehicle. That is 110 Wh * 3.6 kJ = 396 kJ per car and hour.
If we calculate on petrol engine equivalents, the engine efficiency is at the best 30%, and the calorific value of petrol is 48 MJ/kg:
396 / 0.3 / 48000 = 0.0275 kg petrol per car and hour running. The density for normal petrol is 0.737 kg/l, so: 0.0275 kg = 0.0358 litres per hour and car.
And then we are not allowing for the rear lights och any other lights on the vehicle. ;-)

J said...

And you're putting that consumption against all the cars that are sitting stationary idling with their aircondition on, on the motorway where an "accident" happened due to someone not being seen...
... and if you would have read up on the DRLs then you'd know that they are lower powered lights that aren't consuming much power, and by 2011 they're most likely to be L.E.D:s...
.... Neext..!?

Tooony said...

That's not my point and it is not a part of that angle. ;o)
People will be people anyway. So lights or not, people will crash in to other people. Only solution would be to ban people from driving completely. To lower the speed limits or any other forced false security measure will only allow people to drive even worse and get away with it. "Get away with it" as in get away from the old well tested natural selection / Darwinism...
Having said that, I don't oppose to the idea of switching lights on to distinguish between stationary and not-intending-to-stay-stationary vehicles... Bikes in countries with this kind of law already in effect have found other ways of trying to get noticed. Flourescent clothing and dito tape is one way.

J said...

I thought fuel consumption was your angle...
And, didn't I kind of state that "humans are stupid", and that there's been no real change in accident rates, in for example, Sweden..?! At least having lights on would indicate that there is a human in there messing things about...
... but you forget the times when ligths actually make a car visible, such as in dusk or dawn, high contrast ligting situations (bright sun/shadows), etc. These situations should, on their own, warrant using lights on at all times.
Oh well, I feel like I'm discussing religion here...
:D

Tooony said...

Oil dependency was a part of my angle - yes. Saving bloody peoples lives - no. ;-)
It's not so much religion as it is experience. You, just like me, know how much difference it makes to have people driving around with their headlights on.

J said...

...beer..?

Tooony said...

Yes please!