The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ed Bobit: Let's Throw Some Light On It Now!!

June 2003, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.-Matthew Arnold

Woe to the man who seeks to shed a brilliant light in a place, where people want to keep in darkness and shadow.-Benedetto Croce

Macht doch den Fensterladen in Schlafgemach auf, damit mehr Licht herein komme. (Open the bedroom shutters and lei in more light.)-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Give light and the people will find their own way.-Carl McGee


Being a governmental agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NUTSA - commonly pronounced "nit'sah") keeps excellent records. No doubt it's for documenting their need for project funding (which isn't necessarily bad).

Among these records, at least in current history, they report that one of the nation's issues drawing intense comments was in the mid-'70s. That was when there was a proposal suggesting speed governors on vehicles. Of our U.S. population of some 250 million, NHTSA caught the citizen's ire 600 time.

More recently, and one we can all relate with, the airbag cutoff switches really stirred up America when they tallied a grand total of 707 comments. And that new record stood for some time.

Of course we're up to about 270 million people so it's all relative.

I know you're underwhelmed with these facts but bear with me. In the mid-'90s the new high-intensity-headlights (HID) were introduced on a few of the luxury cars. The HID lights were already fairly well known in Europe so they quickly spread to other luxury cars followed by the SUV crowd and lesser-valued cars.

The important point is that they (HID xenon headlamps) provide more illumination than conventional halogen lamps do. So, one would presume, would be safer and become standard OEM overnight. One cannot overlook the mystique of the eye-catching bluish-white glow, also. As a BMW product guy said, "Having that blue glow is part of the cachet. It looks cool."

Keep in mind that normal lights function with a tungsten filament that's electrically charged. The HID lamps are composed of two small electrodes and as the electrical charge activates between them, it ignites the xenon gas producing the intense light. They also require about a third of the electricity compared to the conventional bulbs. They also have a wider beam pattern and permit the factory design engineers more latitude.

But, they also glare!

About 5,000 people have given written responses to NTHSA's open invitation to comment on the HIDs. Just to give you an idea, that's even more concern to our motorists than complaints lodged in the Firestone tire debacle.

Something like 30 percent of the responses contained references to the glare; particularly older drivers. No one seems to know how to depict what the other 70 percent pertained to.

Statistics show that about 2,300 pedestrians are killed by cars each year; and four times as many at night compared to daytime. From a fleet manager's standpoint (now that I've shed some light on the topic) you should help your company study this change and see if you need to advise NTHSA about how you feel.

Personally, I think they're "cool" too.



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