Nowadays car lighting is largely internationally standardized. Back in the day, things weren’t all better, but some things were more original. Austria is a good example, where headlamp flashers were only allowed to work in combination with the number plate lights for a while. The reasoning behind this was as clear as day.

Apparently a rascal once escaped by car at night without being recognized because a policeman couldn’t read the license plate. The clever scoundrel simply used the headlamp flashers instead of the headlights to light his escape route. But the government wasn’t stupid either and ordered headlamp flashers to be coupled with number plate lights. Car manufacturers were anything but happy because it was a hassle. This and internationalization of the regulations eventually put an end to it. The impact on the clear-up rate of offenses can’t have been too big.

Austria was fairly liberal in the 1960s when it came to yellow headlights. While the color that was only customary in France and some of its former colonies was not mandatory, it was certainly permissible. Since the coating which was used back then for creating what is known as selective yellow cost a lot of light it wasn’t very common.

A different peculiarity inspired by the French was more common for a time – driving with parking lights in cities. Because parking and driving don’t go together Vienna came up with the name city lights. But even before France, Austria made dipped beam in cities mandatory once again.

And then Frenchman Napoleon was responsible for another Austrian specialty. Namely, that for a long time cars drove on the right in some parts of the country, and on the left in others. When the French Emperor fought his Austrian counterpart, right-hand traffic found its way into the western parts conquered by him. But it only remained in force there. Napoleon’s march was halted and the eastern regions including Vienna stuck to left-hand traffic. This didn’t really interfere with horse-drawn carriages at the beginning of the 19th century, but stayed that way until 1938 – there’s nothing like taking your time, is there? But what’s that got to do with car lighting? Perhaps because headlights blind, the way they do when continental Europeans drive on the left in England? No because in 1938 that wasn’t important. In Europe, the asymmetrical dipped beam was only introduced in the 1950s. The symmetrical predecessor offered considerably less visibility, but didn’t blind on the “wrong” side of the road.

The last time that Austria got its own way when it came to lights was in 2007. Back then it abolished daylight running light which had only been introduced two years before – the only major country to do so up to now.

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