By on July 6, 2018

headlight

Looooooongtime TTAC reader Robin writes:

Even after all these years on the road (driving since 1972) there are still situations that raise the hackles on my my neck. This is my cautionary tale.

The other day I was on 75, heading south to Dallas, from McKinney. It was around 6:00 a.m., a good hour before sunrise. I like to stay in the next-to-the-outside lane, leaving the furthest right hand lane for drivers entering the freeway. So I began my scan to move over one.

Immediately behind me was a late model, full-sized truck. They are high enough that those headlights pretty much flood my rear vision. I could see that he was NOT attempting to overtake me, either. But there was something in my field of vision. It was vague, flooded out by those projector headlights. I hesitated before moving. And sure enough, here came a guy on a motorcycle, passing us all. He was not driving recklessly at all. Yet I could not see him for the briefest instant as he traversed through the glare of those projector beams.

I don’t know what would have transpired, we were all tucked in pretty damned closely.

Bottom line is, no matter how safely one is operating their vehicle, no matter how safely everyone else is operating, it only takes a literal second for things to go sideways.

Sajeev answers:

While I wasn’t there with our OP, he lives in my home state: some of Our People are proud of their turbo-blindy aftermarket HID/LED kits in factory housings never intended for such bulbs, sometimes made worse by lift kits*** ensuring everyone sees your blinding light.

So protect yourself from misaligned/illegal headlights (and fog lights!) via mirror adjustment as per Blindzone Glare Elimination (BGE) guidelines.

I was thrilled to recently learn that BGE is taught (has been taught?) in Texas Driver’s Education, this will help everyone. So a big thanks to SAE member George Platzer for writing the definitive article in 1995: if only I was young enough to learn from his wisdom in school!

But now I embrace the BGE lifestyle, combined with a modest rear window tint, the issue Robin experienced (almost?) never happens to me. Believe that.

[Image: Shutterstock user Oleksiy Mark]

Send your queries to [email protected]m. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

***No, I’m not hatin’ on lift kits, especially since many a lifted truck saved Houston residents during Hurricane Harvey. The issue here is completing the upgrade via headlight adjustment and not using aforementioned blindy (technical term) and illegal bulbs in housings never intended for them. Otherwise, I got nothing but love for them skyward Cowboy Cadillacs, Son!

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43 Comments on “Piston Slap: Blinded by the Light or BGE Clarity?...”


  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    This is the first I’ve heard of BGE. The most widespread lighting deficiencies I come accross, as written about often, are the DRL only crowd who never turn their service lights on – even after dark – and the crowd who have their brights on all the time. I don’t necessarily have an issue with fog lights that are constantly lit (if they’re factory).

    I have noticed that the blinding light boxes have found their way off the roads, possibly due to additional enforcement.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      There is one specific fog light issue though…

      Rear fog lights. Those things are painful, and I was once yelled at by another driver in Germany for leaving the rear fog light on.

      Since then, I’m very careful to make sure that I only turn on a rear fog light when it’s either foggy or I’m being tailgated unnecessarily.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I think I’ve only ever seen 1 rear fog light. If I recall ot was an 06ish A6 in earwax gold he passed me doing about 85 on 494 in Bloomington MN. I only saw him for about 5 seconds and then he was off to the races, apparently.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          I too have issues with those who ‘forget’ to turn on their light system because of their DRL’s. At least one night per week on Highway 407 I see a vehicle without their lights on, the driver oblivious.

          Fog lights are something I generally deride, despite regular trips through the Oak Ridge Moraine area, where fog becomes problematic.

          I do however agree that all vehicles should be equipped with a rear fog light. During my travels through Europe I began to realize the difference that they can make, in regards to safety.

          As for the ‘illegal’ lights. Where are they manufactured? Are they sold on-line or in stores? Can the local police force not pull vehicles so equipped off the road?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “As for the ‘illegal’ lights. Where are they manufactured? Are they sold on-line or in stores? Can the local police force not pull vehicles so equipped off the road?”

            Certain lights are illegal for road use but not so for highway use; the problem is that some (like those extra-blue lights) are definitely illegal for highway use but are also difficult to prove in court unless the car is impounded, which means the driver usually has to be caught in the performance of a more obvious crime such as DUI or other where they have to be incarcerated as well. The type of lighting or bulb then can be confirmed before the driver can swap them out and claim innocence in court.

            Now, use of aftermarket light bars, etc. can be caught on the patrol car’s dashcam, making that a much easier ticket to prove, but most people with those on board know better than to use them on the highway.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Vulpine – do you not know about illegal HID and LED retrofit kits? Go into Ebay or Amazon and search for “HID kit”.

            These lights, installed in most headlamp assemblies originally designed for halogen lamps, produce a non-DOT-compliant light output that blinds both oncoming drivers as well as the person in front of the offender.

            It’s a massive problem, and most of the police don’t give tickets for it either.

            Go to Daniel Stern lighting website and you can read in full detail why these lights don’t work properly.

          • 0 avatar
            road_pizza

            Rear fog lights should be mandatory??? How about “No”? Been driving since late winter of ’78-’79 and in that time I’ve driven in dense fog maybe a half-dozen times EVER. Managed not to hit anybody those times too. Rear fog lights are about as dumb and pointless as DRL’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Maybe for you, RP, but I’ve driven in fog so dense you can’t even see the road stripes in your headlamps unless you’ve got fogs and turn OFF your headlamps. Those bright rear fog lamps make it easier to see a car BEFORE you hit it! Mountain country is especially bad as you could end up in the clouds and not just water vapor rising from the ground. Just two years ago I ran through fog like that on I-81 through Virginia. And there are marked fog areas on many Interstate highways. Just imagine how bad it could be on two-lane highways, where you could round a curve and crash into someone without warning.

            You might think they’re worthless because you don’t see much fog, but there are those who see fog nearly every day and every little bit helps when it comes to safety.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Generally speaking, most of today’s pickup truck lighting and the height/placement of lighting are hazardous at night to those driving lower cars. Pickup owners generally don’t care as I feel that most don’t do anything to adjust distance when a sedan is in front of them and flood your car with light. So, lifted trucks, aftermarket HID, whatever, just varying degrees of inconsiderate really.

      One thing I will say is that despite all the lighting shenanigans, one I find to be the winner hands down. Silver Star bulbs! Not sure what it is, but it is the most offensive hue of light to the eye. As if the designers intended to design bulbs specifically for truck owners to burn the retinas of car owners.

      The owners of the two trucks pictured clearly went for Max d’bag.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I have had a lift kit, and am totally against them…

    Except in cases where people off-road their vehicle, and need the kit for it.

    The vast majority of the lifted trucks you see do not meet that criteria. How do I know? The tires always give it away.

    All terrain tires, or even regular street tires, plus a lift kit is just posing.

    The worst offenders are also generally too large to do any serious wheeling in.

    Mild lift, plus incredibly aggressive tires, on a small to medium size vehicle is an unstoppable platform.

    When I had my lift, it was very mild, small increase in tire size, and resulted in a total increase of less than 4” in height. That was enough to go places where body damage was highly likely.

    Then again, you couldn’t hear my engine over the tread noise at speeds above 25mph, and every freeway road trip resulted in you feeling like you were still vibrating with every pit stop.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “All terrain tires, or even regular street tires, plus a lift kit is just posing.”

      Why would you assume a guy on a modest lift (or even larger 3-4 inch one) and all terrain tires is posing?

      Sure they don’t perform in slick mud but just about everywhere else a decent set of all-terrains is the perfect compromise between street tires and this: “…you couldn’t hear my engine over the tread noise at speeds above 25mph, and every freeway road trip resulted in you feeling like you were still vibrating with every pit stop”

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        Upon re-reading, I realize I forgot to include 20” rims in my writeup.

        I actually wheeled in a stock Cherokee before upgrading it. Did require the occasional tow strap to make it up slick mud, but it did okay on the rocks with liberal use of the rear skid plate for its intended purpose.

        As for tires, I ran Super Swampers. BFG Mud Terrains would have been a wiser choice for most of my driving, but going places that Wranglers would get stuck made it worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      My old 80 series had a 2 inch lift with Bridgestone Deuler AT tires it it probably spent half of the time I owned it on various trails.

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    I learned of this technique many years ago from an article by the Toronto Star’s long time automotive writer Jim Kenzie. I have shared it with a number of people and once they have driven with their mirrors set properly they have a major AHA moment

  • avatar
    SWA737

    In some parts of Texas, BGE lifestyle refers to Big Green Eggs. I was hoping this article was about Sajeev’s brisket recipe.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I won’t call it a trend yet but I’ve seen three vehicles (2 Wranglers and an Escape) with household auxiliary lighting affixed to their front ends. I’m talking about those “atomic” light bar things you see advertised on tv, 12 zillion candle power or whatever they are. One Jeep was heading toward me on a sunny day and the light was intensely bright, it was like peeking at an arc welder. I saw the Escape in a parking lot and the light was attached with velcro on the edge of the hood. I hope this doesn’t catch on.

    • 0 avatar
      Malforus

      This makes my blood boil, light-bar Lemmings who get these aux lights for offroading affixed to their cars and they use them on sidestreets.

      BGE are bad (and people should responsibly adjust their lights so they don’t glare other drivers) but the offroad lamps being used on small streets are really bad too.

      My area has streets where a F250 has to be within inches of the curb in order to not be crossing the double yellows, and it doesn’t make tight situations any better when Chad, Brad, and Cleetus are running offroad lights while straddling the line.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Headlamps, especially projector beam lamps, need to be mounted low on the body, not high. There’s a reason the Jeep Cherokee had its headlamps mounted low… just above the bumper, rather than high on the fender the way it is now; FCA knew that the lower lights offered less risk of blinding other drivers, either oncoming or followed.

    It used to be that almost all brands had their headlamps mounted no higher than the middle of the grille and such blinding was relatively unheard of. Now, and especially with the projectors, those high-mounted lights can’t help but glare into the rear windows of the cars they are following or straight into the eyes of oncoming cars, even on a level road–not even considering the effect when cresting a hill or even just hitting an uneven patch in the road. Lifting a truck makes the matter even worse.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The proliferation of illegal and dangerous lighting retrofits can be seen everywhere, and not only on lifted trucks. These bozos throw lightbars on anything they can, or they modify existing headlights without any regard to the effects they have on the safety of others. The problem is that the vast majority of cops are not going to have lighting “ticket blitzes” and the idiots will continue to create hazards like the OP wrote about. Worse, in the OP’s case, the brodozer would have just continued on leaving the OP and the dead motorcyclist behind.

    Don’t even get me started with ridiculously lifted trucks. Drive a sports car and the hazard they create is magnified. I am not advocating the ban of such lifts – creating a rollover hazard for yourself is your doing so have at it. But some kind of blocker bar on each end of the truck to prevent overruns should be mandatory. Not that such logical regulation stands a chance in the slash and burn era of today’s politics.

    • 0 avatar
      Malforus

      I hate agreeing with Michael Bloomberg but when police refuse to enforce nuisance and behavioral laws like proper sound limits, lighting rules, wipers on lights on and dangerous roadgoing vehicles all that happens is people start “arms races” on brighter lights and higher lifts.

      Its ok to have your vehicle your way but we all share the roads and the last thing we need is more half-keister hacks on critical safety features.

      I love when people personalize their cars, I am not so much a fan of people who make their cars dangerous to operate around because they lack proper lighting, or can’t stay in their lane of traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        It’s already illegal in every state to fit those aftermarket HID capsules to halogen housings causing glare. Cops just don’t bother with writing those tickets along with many, many things they ignore. There are also rules on lift heights and those are ignored too(see ca vc 24008.5). I don’t see how more regulations making them more illegal is going to help if there is no enforcement.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          You hit the nail on the head. I can drive like a maniac within the city limits, the police are too busy with assaults, homicides, and robberies to bother with me. Outside the city I have to mind my P’s and Q’s, the county sheriffs and state police have plenty of free time to stop me, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            @sub-600

            I bet you in most states, there is some sort of law similar to what I used as an example for California, if not some discretionary code that allows the police to ticket unsafe vehicles.

            I find it amusing when people bemoan “in this climate” or “in this era of ______ politics” as if these problems started on Jan 21, 2017, when there are tons of laws on the books already. The lift kits have been around for decades, I remember in the 90s seeing the mudder crowd that puts their pickups or SUVs on lifts measured in feet and running tractor tires.

            Perhaps the “oh such toxic climate we have today” crowd just don’t like it when cops pick and choose which law to enforce when it is laws they care about that are being ignored. Imagine how those of us in California with legal immigrant family members(who spent years and followed all the rules waiting for their turn to come to this country) feel like watching the news every day. LOL.

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            @TwoBelugas In NYS you’ll get pulled over if there’s a serious safety problem with your vehicle, I see it everyday. Also if you’re doing something stupid like driving down the highway with mattresses tied on the roof with clothesline or whatever. Children or dogs in pickup beds will definitely get you stopped, cops hate that. I don’t like it either.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            …I find it amusing when people bemoan “in this climate” or “in this era of ______ politics” as if these problems started on Jan 21, 2017, when there are tons of laws on the books already…

            Why is it so amusing? Laws get added (or deleted) as issues crop up. LED lighting retrofits are a new phenomenon as the technology is relatively new. So a new safety issue is rearing its head now. And yes, IN THIS political climate there is no interest in moving forward with new regulation. Just as there would be no interest in focusing on coal as a domestic source of energy during Obama’s tenure.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            LOL, add more regulations, that would solve everything when cops already ignore existing vehicle safety regulations with many of them specifically dealing with lifts and lighting.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Lack of enforcement is a problem for sure, but that has nothing to do with whether a new law is needed. Bumper heights could easily be checked on the scene, unlike lighting issues which require more training. And yes, sometimes a regulation is the only answer. People typically do what is best for them, or they perceive it as best, regardless of the ramifications to others. Unless there is something put in place to change that behavior, it will not change.

        • 0 avatar
          focus-ed

          What’s really surprising is that no insurance company actively worked against these sort of practices. In the event of an accident, it’s them covering exacerbated costs caused by an owner of vehicle incompatible with the rest of traffic (bumper heights, lights or even emission). Unless it’s no conspiracy theory that the more expensive accidents, the more money is to be made in premiums.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I wear my sunglasses at night so I can
    Watch them weave and keep track of the visions in my eyes.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    On that BGE… No. I disagree. Now instead of one blind zone on each side, you have two, and some vehicles CAN disappear in them. Looking at the linked advisory, you’re moving the mirrors outward too far, creating a too-large rearward blind zone. Also take in mind there are other ways to cover the more forward blind zone much more efficiently than twisting the mirrors so far out of alignment.

    First: I note that most people aim the driver’s side mirror right down the side of the car… often by as much as half the glass filled with your own vehicle. Instead, that mirror shouldn’t see any of the car from your normal head position but with only a slight move to the left (not leaning your head on the window) you should be able to see the side of the car. This means that you have no rearward blind spot at the rear quarter because almost no bicycle is going to be riding right against the corner of your bumper. One foot in any direction would make it visible either in the center or driver’s mirror. This also means that even a motorcycle in the next lane is visible in one of the two mirrors until it is even with your back door, where a turn of the head will let you see it.

    Second: The right side of the vehicle has the advantage of a convex mirror, broadening the angle of view. So again, turning the mirror outward enough that the side of the car is only JUST out of view gives equivalent coverage and honestly turning your head to the right to check will certainly cover what’s left through your peripheral vision. But there’s more…

    Third — And some vehicles come with this from the factory, now.) I use a pair of the wedge-shaped convex mirrors applied to one corner of each side mirror. The placement is up to you but I prefer the inner, top corner with the wedge angled to widen the overall field of view. These wedge mirrors don’t need to be all that large but I’ve seen factory versions on larger pickups and SUVs that cover the entire upper half of the mirror. The advantage should be obvious–there IS no blind spot any more and the curved mirror ensures that less of the bright headlamp beam reaches the eye while still being obviously there. By the time the vehicle is out of view of that wedge mirror, the vehicle is far enough forward that even someone with relatively poor peripheral vision would still be able to see it.

    I’ve driven this way for over 30 years, starting while i was still in military service and the convex mirrors for the right side were just coming into use. I’d seen those round ‘bubble’ mirrors used on 18-wheelers and other large vehicles and realized just how functional they would be and I never own a car now without installing them. It doesn’t totally block the blinding headlamps but now I have a means to still see, despite them.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The way I set my mirrors seems to eliminate blind spots within the cone of rearward vision. Basically I set my side mirrors to line up exactly with the edge of what the rear view catches. Outside of that I have to look.

      The average level of driver competence in the US warrants keeping the view of the car in the side views. I believe many Americans cannot estimate the width of the cars they are sitting in.

  • avatar
    Rasputin

    “I like to stay in the next-to-the-outside lane, leaving the furthest right hand lane for drivers entering the freeway.”
    WRONG!
    There exist these thingies called entrance ramps for the purpose of entering the highway. It is NOT the responsibility of drivers on the highway to “make room” for those entering (heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic excepted). As illustrated in your story, you being in the middle lane are obstructing faster traffic. If you were in the right lane, where you belonged, both the truck and the motorcycle would not have been an issue. YOU were the proximate cause of the “near accident,” not the lights of the truck. [Not that the light problem doesn’t exist.]

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Preach on brother! Could we get you to film a PSA for Western Washington where no one understands this concept? Maybe Sarah McLachlan to do some background music.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “There exist these thingies called entrance ramps for the purpose of entering the highway. It is NOT the responsibility of drivers on the highway to “make room” for those entering (heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic excepted).”

      — False. It is the responsibility of BOTH drivers to ensure a smooth merge. Where possible, it is much safer to give the merging car room to merge PLUS is it much faster for the through car to simply leave that lane open for those who don’t seem to know how to use acceleration and deceleration lanes. Where you have at least three lanes of traffic (typical of most metropolitan interstates) then using the second lane from the right simply allows for smoother traffic flow.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I think we’re talking past each other here. I haven’t driven in Dallas-Ft Worth in years, but I inferred from Robin’s post that s/he was describing heavy traffic conditions. If I’m driving on a busy–emphasis on “busy”–intra-city section of highway, my default lane is going to be the second lane from the right. The right-most lane is going to have vehicles exiting and merging constantly, and it’s going to be impossible to drive in it at a steady pace. Note, however, that there also are four or more lanes in both directions in this scenario (401 in Toronto proper, 90/94 in Chicago proper, and so forth). Lighter traffic or outside the city proper? Sure, I’ll be in the right-most of what are usually two or three lanes.

      Alas, most Americans and Canadians have crap lane discipline. They either weren’t taught it in driver’s ed, have forgotten, or are selfish.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …Alas, most Americans and Canadians have crap lane discipline. They either weren’t taught it in driver’s ed, have forgotten, or are selfish….

        I agree but I am not sure if it is selfishness or ignorance. I, for one, are quite militant about alternating merges. If some bozo drives past the row of cars waiting to exit the highway and wants to jam their way in at the last moment, I refuse to let them in. I lock bumpers with the car in front of me and ignore the horn or the guy’s front end. I’ve had less than an inch between mirrors…too bad pal, show some consideration. Courtesy is a two way street.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    True , a major annoyance of mine is when drivers on entrance ramp match speed of those in the slow lane expecting them to slow down for them to merge.I remember the drivers-ed instructor harping me on this when I was 15.
    The biggest problem in KC highway system is the left lane exit ramp which affects my current daily commute.It’s a complete bottle neck for flow.

    I’d imagine ticketing someone for illegal lighting would be really easy to do.One just has to pop the hood and look for a wiring harness sticking out from the back of light bulb cover.But probably no COP would want to give a ticket for just this , probably right down there with illegal window tint.
    I’d have to say though that not all aftermarket HIDs are offensive. My old TRS 35 watt HID kit in OEM ML350 projectors had a very OEM appearance light distribution.It was professionally installed though and I avoided the too bright 50watt system.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your post and I apologize if I am, but the point of an entrance ramp is to match the prevailing speed of the freeway. Are you talking about those whose speed would put them in position to sideswipe somebody if nothing else changes, or what exactly do you mean?

      I’m not trying to be flippant, but am genuinely confused about the issue here.

      I personally get about 5 or 10 miles above the prvailing speed so I squeeze in front.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        Sorry for the confusion… as long as you’re 5mph under or over the person in the farthest right lane you’re being courteous so as not slow down traffic. Though most likely these days that person in far right lane isn’t paying attention to those who are trying to merge onto the freeway which would also be a reason not to pace those in the slow lane.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    @redmonddjp: “Vulpine – do you not know about illegal HID and LED retrofit kits?”

    — Oh, I know about them. But like I said, it’s difficult for a cop to prove they’re installed if all he does is issue a ticket and send the driver on their way. Remember, this country’s laws are centered around, “Innocent until proven guilty.” The driver could easily use the time before the hearing to swap back to factory and “prove” their innocence unless the vehicle itself is impounded at the scene of the stop. That’s WHY the police don’t give tickets for it. On the other hand, if the vehicle is impounded for other reasons, it becomes pretty easy to perform the required inspections and prove habitual criminal activities.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Meanwhile, I could wish for better lighting from my li’l ole’ Ranger. Compared to modern factory lighting, these things barely light the road, which is WHY some people go that illegal route.

  • avatar
    James2

    Nine times out of ten I’ll be blinded by a lifted Toyota Tacoma, with its HIDs set on stun.

    Ironically, nine times out of ten the car whose headlights are NOT on is a Toyota, the illuminated instrument cluster apparently deceives its functionally-blind driver, who cannot tell that their lights aren’t on.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    One of my friends does/”has done”, or worked on the Ford F-X50 lights. I agree that they are blinding, and dangerous, most of the time. If you’re young, just wait, if you live that long. Us survivors (of age) are affected by these things.

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