I think perhaps the biggest thing the internet has done for human society is that is has made everyone in the world into roommates. We’re now in a position where we can know all sorts of absurd details and opinions about people we’ve never met, and be baffled by these opinions from half a world away. Everyone on Earth has the potential to be a weird, rarely seen roommate now, casually dropping strange statements and confusing opinions that make us all wonder, with surprising intensity, just what is the deal with that weirdo? A bit of this magic happened just the other day, when, unbidden, someone on the Internet tweeted angrily about brake lights in a way that puzzled much of the driving world. Let’s talk about this.
Here’s the tweet in question, which has been making the rounds on car twitter and has come to me from a number of sources:
— Kitch???? (@UPnDOWNvids) March 21, 2023
Now, if you’re like most of us, you’re probably looking at that picture with confusion. What, exactly, is wrong here? People are stopped at a red light. That’s how that’s supposed to work, isn’t it? The guy said something about a “hat-trick” which is sports-talk for three goals or related triumphs, so that must mean the three people stopped there. So why did it take “every bone in [his] body to not put main beams on” to presumably retaliate against those three drivers? What did they do?
Well, here’s their crime: they have their feet on their brake pedals while stopped.
The reason the tweeter feels this is bad is because they find the glow of the brake lights unpleasant or distracting, it seems. And, okay, I guess some brake lights can be bright, but who doesn’t keep their feet on the brake when stopped at a light? I can’t ever recall thinking of a time I’ve been dazzled by brake lights – they’re not high beams, after all – but I’m sure it’s possible, but at the same time, there are benefits to it, too.
In an automatic, do you really need to be shifting from D to P every time you come to a traffic light? That seems ridiculous, and potentially annoying to other drivers behind you, who would probably rather you actually start moving right when the light turns green instead of waiting for you to shift back into gear, a process that will, assuming the standard PRNDL layout, flash your reverse lights at the people behind you, which is more likely to cause annoyance than the brake lights that indicate you understand how traffic lights work.
In a manual, I guess you could pull your parking brake, but, again, why? You’re stopped. That’s an ideal time to be illuminating the lights that warn people behind you you’re not moving, because you’re not, and you’re in an active traffic lane, so let people know that!
I’m really baffled by this one. If you can’t deal with an occasional bright light, maybe night driving isn’t your thing? Roads at night are positively full of bright lights: the traffic lights themselves, street lights, advertising signage, flashing yellow construction warning lamps, highly energetic fireflies, headlights of oncoming cars, you name it.
This just seems such a strange thing to get worked up about, right? It’s not just me? This is from the UK, so perhaps it’s more of a thing there. In fact, it is mentioned in the UK Highway code:
“In stationary queues of traffic, drivers should apply the parking brake and, once the following traffic has stopped, take their foot off the footbrake to deactivate the vehicle brake lights. This will minimise glare to road users behind until the traffic moves again.”
Here’s a post from “The Official Highway Code,” which “applies to England, Scotland and Wales”:
Reactions to that post are mixed:
Huh. Okay. What’s odd about this is that I’m all but certain this code was written in a pre-LED era where brake lights were feeble 12V (or even 6V) bulbs behind likely grimy red plastic, so the idea of being dazzled by the brake lights of a Ford Cortina or an Riley Elf seems a little far fetched to me, but who knows. These same rules also suggest not using headlights at all on roads with street lighting:
“use headlights at night, except on a road which has lit street lighting. These roads are generally restricted to a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise specified”
So, you know, maybe there’s a greater fear of light-dazzling in the UK than I realized. Like, a pathological fear.
But this Reddit thread implies that Australia and New Zealand have similar things in their drivers’ codes. (I haven’t been able to confirm). It’s all a bit bizarre.
Am I out of line, here? I’ve never driven with anyone who takes their car out of gear and puts it in park or pulls the handbrake at stoplights. Ever. I mean, you usually have no idea how long the light will be? You may just be there like 11 seconds! I’m sure on flat roads I’ve sometimes taken my foot off the brake, but unless I’m feeling really lazy or it’s an absurdly long light, I’ll keep it in gear and the clutch down.
Is the tweeter/UK Highway code right about this? Is everyone I know doing it wrong? Is this man the lone voice of reason in a cruel, red-glowing world? Is this a UK thing? Do any of you agree with this?
Let’s discuss this. I’ll be amazed if there’s a decent number of people for whom this makes sense, but you know, I’m okay with being amazed.
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