Headlights have changed over the years. Making sure they conform to regulations can be tricky. (submitted)

Column Drivesmart: Headlight systems can be complex to police

There is more light on the road today from the driver’s point of view than there has ever been.

By Tim Schewe

In my time as a driver I’ve seen headlight technology progress from tungsten filament glass sealed beams to quartz halogen, high intensity discharge and now LED and even laser.

There is more light on the road today from the driver’s point of view than there has ever been. While that can be a good thing if all that light is coming from your vehicle, it might not be so great if you are the one facing it.

Way back when, sealed beams tended to be dimmer and more yellowish. They were not that bright in comparison to modern systems but a driver failing to dim them was more nuisance than hazard. It was also easy to overdrive their illumination.

Quartz halogen introduced a brighter, whiter light with a filament that would last longer, too. Initially, they came in a sealed beam but progressed to a housing with a replaceable bulb.

The light that they emitted was more controlled and often had an obvious pattern. They could throw more light down the road on low beam and increase your margin of safety.

High intensity discharge (HID) lamps replace the tungsten filament with a tube of gas that glowed brightly when high voltage electricity was passed through it. These were efficient and could emit a lot of light in the visible part of the spectrum in comparison to filament bulbs.

HID does have drawbacks, emitting light that tends to be bluer which we may see as producing more glare. As they age, the light emitted tends to be even more blue.

LED is efficient and can be mechanically or digitally controlled to direct light where it is needed and changes can occur in milliseconds.

Laser headlights (currently high beam only) direct laser light onto a phosphor that then glows and is emitted by the headlight.

In North America the Society of Automotive Engineers sets the standards for vehicle lighting. The federal government incorporates these standards into the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations to control how the vehicles on our highways are built. British Columbia enacts provincial legislation to insure that lighting systems continue to be used and maintained to these standards.

Policing these rules can be complex. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publishes an inspection and approval protocol for vehicle lighting. While this may be practical to use in a designated inspection facility it does serve to help police at the roadside determine that problems may exist.

When there is a valid suspicion the most effective policing tool may be to order the vehicle to a designated inspection facility for closer scrutiny.

Just Posted

North Cowichan postpones decision on reinstating environmental committee

Issue to be discussed at meeting scheduled for Oct. 21

Isles gather momentum with back-to-back wins

Kerry Park beats Saanich for second victory of VIJHL season

Another lead fades for frustrated LMG

Cowichan’s game management not to blame this time

Duncan mayor takes tour for first-hand look at condition of railway

Island Corridor Foundation taking mayors of railway towns on similar trips

Editorial: CVRD puts expedience above transparency

It is incredibly shady that this information is being kept from the public.

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Suspect hits woman with pipe, jumps into waiting truck in downtown Nanaimo

Police say victim believes ‘vicious assault’ was an attempted purse-snatching

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Port Moody mayor goes back on unpaid leave during sex assault investigation

Rob Vagramov said he intends to return as mayor in three or four weeks

UBC issues statement after instructor tells students to vote for Liberal Party

University says partisan messaging was not intentional

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

Most Read