Saturday, May 08, 2010

Light Traditions



I drove back from Taipei the other day and the weather turned to crap. Up towards Sanyi the fog rolled in and the rain came down, blinding and relentless. Passed a couple of accidents -- in the one at the top the other car had driven off, leaving parts of its front end scattered about the road. And yet, too many damn drivers -- like the one in the mirror here -- weren't turning on their lights. Up the road visibility dropped to 100 meters but many people still did not turn on the headlights. Perhaps the automatic headlights so prevalent in modern vehicles have dimmed everyone's reflexes.

I leave my headlights on for both my scooter and my car all the time, for safety. This has lead to many interesting encounters. In gas stations, attendants, evidently despairing of my ability to speak Chinese, silently slap my lights off without asking me. I am constantly and helpfully warned that it is on. In the market people mention it all the time, apparently the result of a folk belief that running headlights wastes gasoline. I drove out of a parking lot the other day and the cashier broke off her conversation with two men standing by the booth to helpfully warn me my headlights were on. I explained that I always leave them that way, for safety. They laughed at that. My wife reports that too, so she has solved the laughter problem by explaining that the light is broken and can't be shut off.
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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you too?! I leave my lights on all the time too for both my car and scooter. And yeah, people are always helpfully telling me my lights are on! People even tell me my lights are on when I have the keys out and the lights are OFF (somehow they think it will drain the battery).

It's a complete no brainer for the scooter since the scooter cuts off electricity to the light when you turn the keys to off and pull them out, so there's no chance of drain to the battery. Newer cars that turn off the lights after a period when the keys are out are good for that as well.

Wait, wait... do you use the high beam to warn drivers ahead of you that something is wrong? This is more common I think; I've seen a few bus drivers use that, especially in situations where the horn is uncalled for.

Kaminoge said...

I once had a woman literally screaming at me from inside her car (in English no less) that my headlamp was on, in the same hysterical tone of voice I assume she would have used had I been on fire.

Thoth Harris said...

People here do the same thing with electrical items around the house, too. The unplug things, even when there is no standby light or power bar. Completely absurd, and time-wasting (sure, a tiny amount of time, but everything adds up).

Philip said...

It's absolutely true that leaving the lights on while driving a gasoline vehicle does not waste fuel. I do it. However it's not true for electric, and to some extent hybrid, vehicles. In the coming years as we see more and more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, you will see less and less (if that were possible!) vehicles with lights on. You have been warned!

les said...

Conversely, you can try driving around at night with no lights on and not one person will signal or tell you about it.
So what is it, driving in the day with lights on is more dangerous than driving at night with them off? Or do they think that running the lights wastes electricity?

P. S. said...

This brought a smile to my face, as I remembered explaining to my girlfriend (now taitai, I married her anyway) that it cost no more gasoline to run your headlights. I'm sure I never convinced her. The only thing that cured her disgust was moving to Sweden, where everyone drives with the lights on. As I recall, the Swedish cars automatically turned the lights on, and one must deliberately switch them off.

Pat said...

The dour Kaminoge strikes again! Typical foreigner that just complains, complains, complains. Complaints interspersed with some comment to show off knowledge of Japan and how much better Japan is than Taiwan.

I got you down bro =).

Kaminoge said...

Golly gee whiz, Pat, you sure do have me down. I was hoping I could show off my superior knowledge of Japan, and at the same time add another item to my long list of complaints about the inferior island of Taiwan, without anyone realizing it, by relating a mildly amusing/interesting anecdote related to the topic of lights on vehicles. But you were just too smart for me, um, "bro".

Brian Schack said...

Actually, turning on your lights does use gas. Where else would the energy come from? Ah, the battery - well, where does the energy in the battery come from? The alternator. And what drives the alternator? The engine. And where does the engine get its energy from? Gasoline.

Now, how much gasoline to run your lights, I have no idea. And of course, the real question is whether the increase in safety is more important than the increase in gas consumption.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, but the engine charges the battery that runs the electrical system whether the lights are on or not.

Brian Schack said...

This probably requires someone who knows more about cars, but I would guess that the draw on the engine from the alternator varies depending on how much charging the alternator is doing. Presumably a full battery would mean that the alternator is just spinning freely, meaning that all the energy in the engine is being directed towards moving the car. If the battery is draining because the lights are on, then the alternator does more work, sucking energy from the engine, thus lowering your fuel economy.

I found a site discussing the effect of headlights on fuel economy at:

http://mb-soft.com/public/headlite.html

No guarantees as to its validity.

Robert R. said...

Sure, but if the battery is fully charged, the engine might be able to run at a lower power output. [I'm not certain of this].

Otherwise, you could make your air-conditioning "free" by having it run off the battery, which is obviously laughable.

Either way, the power consumption of the headlights is pretty small.

Brian Schack said...

Either way, the power consumption of the headlights is pretty small.

True. By far more important is not driving like a maniac (aggressive starts/stops, speeding). Do you think drivers in Taiwan would appreciate you pointing out how their awful driving is wasting gas? :-)