OPINION: C’mon, put your headlights on!
After discharging from the regular army in 2006 I worked at the Boddington gold mine for four-and-a-half years, finishing in April 2014.
Before this I spent 18 months at Ravensthorpe nickel mine.
In my last six months at Boddington I was on a four-three roster. This meant I was driving 600km every four days. Obviously I spent a great deal of time on the road. Much of this driving time was either in darkness or periods of reduced visibility or semi-darkness. People would often ask what was the worst part or biggest hazard encountered driving to and from work?
Was it boredom, tiredness, road works, kangaroos?
The answer was none. It was drivers without their lights on in periods of reduced visibility, making their vehicles extremely difficult to see. This was further compounded if their vehicles were dark-coloured. I describe this hazard as “dark car, dark day, and dark road”.
On numerous occasions in the early morning or early evening I would check the road was clear and pull out to pass a vehicle only to find that once I was halfway past that there was a dark-coloured approaching vehicle, very close, with no lights on. This was even more of a problem if the vehicle I was passing was a road train.
As such I was required to take evasive action a number of times.
Common sense tells us that the more visible vehicles are on the road, then awareness and therefore safety are enhanced for all. This is why a number of car makes now have automatically activated lights.
Unfortunately there are still many makes of vehicles on the road that don’t have this facility, leaving it to the driver to think of safety, often this doesn’t happen.
I would also often be asked when discussing this issue was it our “city cousins” who are the offenders in these situations.
Sadly, the answer was no, all too often it is the good old country folk, quite often farmers from the local shires encountered along the way. This includes our shire and district.
When travelling to and from Albany I will turn my lights off and on a number of times and point to my eyes when approached by vehicles with no lights on, often dark vehicles in reduced visibility situations.
The reactions include immediate slowing down by the other driver, thinking there are police or a speed camera in the area or waving cheerily to me. It would actually be humorous if it wasn’t so serious.
Another situation often encountered is drivers wearing high-visibility clothing while driving their dark cars, with no lights on in periods of reduced visibility. One would wonder.
The sooner that it is an enforced law for vehicles to have lights on at all times the more aware and therefore safer all road users will be.
When our granddaughter Laura was young I would have a safety game with her when driving our Black Nissan Navara that she would recite “Out the front gate lights on, in the front gate lights off” and then ask her why, with the answer “so all other cars can see us, Poppy”.
Michael Tugwell, Napier
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