It’s somehow reassuring if your car does a great deal of thinking for you. It regulates the climate inside the car, controls the brakes, and lets you know if there are any technical problems. Unfortunately quite a few people switch off completely because of that, and don’t even bother with the smallest things that still need to be done manually in most cars. Steering, accelerating and braking (still) have to be carried out by the driver. And what if it gets dark outside? We turn on the lights, don’t we? Of course. But very clearly not everyone does.

Even though our cars are equipped with wonderful dipped beam some of us don’t even switch it on when it’s dark. In April 2012, our colleague Fritz Lorek conducted a traffic survey in Munich and found that 19% of drivers were still going without lights at 7 p.m. Even late in the evening 7% were still driving without lights. What’s the matter with us? While in many Scandinavian countries at least daytime running lights (which are not enough to illuminate the road ahead of us though) and in most cases even dipped beam is linked directly to the ignition, many Germans are in the dark, also and particularly at night.

One reason why we forget to switch on the lights is of course the omnipresent light outside in large urban areas. Street lights, shops, neon signs and a myriad of other cars turn night into day in cities. While you won’t even find the ignition without a flashlight in the country, it’s as bright as day in the city even when it’s dark. So for those of us who don’t automatically turn on the lights after starting the car it’s easy to forget. Looking at the still dark dashboard after a few meters should give you a hint and make you wonder; if I can’t see the speedometer, there’s something wrong.

Once oncoming and worried drivers keep flashing their lights it should give you a clue that they’re not trying to warn you about upcoming speed cameras. Is something wrong with my car? Maybe I forgot to turn on the lights? Alright, we don’t want to lecture you, but perhaps some of you have already thought about autumn? Are the lamps working OK? Is everything working at the rear, not just the rear fog lights that we sometimes also like to keep on for too long? It’s simply not enough to leave on the daytime running lights. Of course it increases your own visibility during the night, given that at least something is on. But then you could just as well turn on the interior lights. Not a good idea.

How’s your dipped beam behavior anyway? Do you also have your lights on the whole day in good weather? At night anyway, we hope. Are you among the few percent who tend to forget to turn on the lights? Or are you one of those who then forgets to turn them off and comes back to a flat battery in the morning …? In any case, we hope you see the light.

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