What do you associate with “Light in August?” Some of you may think of the 1932 novel by US writer and Nobel Prizewinner William Faulkner. But very few of you will hit upon the subject of automotive lighting. For most drivers, that’s a topic for the fall or winter at most! “You hardly need headlights in summer, since it’s light out most of the time,” is a statement commonly heard.
However, it is a risky misconception that already has caused many accidents. There are numerous situations in which you are only safe on the road during the day when your headlights are switched on.
Scenario one: Have you ever driven directly into a sunset and then encountered an oncoming car with no lights on? When did you finally see that car? Probably not until it came out of the range of the sun’s glare and was nearly even with you. The lower the sun is in the sky, the more dangerous it is. Light, during the day, is what can help. Sweden – up near the Arctic Circle where twilight lasts very long – was the first country in the world to make daytime lights a requirement for this very reason. And even we here in Germany have long periods of twilight in summer.
Scenario two: Recently I drove up to a narrowing of the road, with a car parked immediately beyond it. Or so I thought, because the lights were switched off. In reality, that car was just waiting to let a car in front of me pass. After that, the driver obviously believed it was his turn to go, and advanced abruptly. If I hadn’t hit the brakes, it would have been close, because from my vantage point, the car appeared to be parked.
Scenario three: On a Saturday evening around 10 p.m., on the outskirts of the Alps, one of my headlamps recently went dead. There was no way any repair shops would be open, let alone an auto parts store. The next gas station was 30 kilometers away. If I had switched on the lights during the day, I would have noticed the defect much earlier (or the headlight monitor would have warned me) and I would not have ended up stranded at night, in the dark. The lesson is: turn on your lights during the day to check that all lamps are in working order. My tip: if the sunlight isn’t too bright, position your car right in front of a white wall and test all the lamps. If something’s not right, you can drive right to a repair shop.
And one last note on “Light in August.” The novel has nothing at all to do with automotive lamps, but it’s still a good read! Time magazine even included it in its Top 100 list. I read it last year. Took me a long time. Right up to the winter…