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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island under a thunderstorm watch tonight

Environment Canada forecasts downpour and possible thunder and lightning

UPDATE: Hundreds march against location of safe injection site in Duncan

A Voice for Our Children opposes centre being near schools, recreation sites

No new leads in Brown homicide case

Five-year mark passes without any additional information provided to police

Work progresses on Clement Centre’s new building in Cobble Hill

Sod-turning ceremony for facility held on Sept. 21

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Most Read