Moose, other motorists will benefit from increased use of headlights

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Oh for a moose with headlights! Just when I think I haven't another word to say, that old soap box jumps up and bumps me on the shins and I'm off and running.

Driving home from an exercise class early one morning last week, I realized the summer is about over and the drive to and from town early in the morning will soon be in the dark instead of sunshine. Looming out of the foggy, rainy, morning came a pavement-colored truck with no headlights.

Now, it's dark enough for all the streetlights to be on, but this moron thought he/she could see just fine without headlights. I flashed my lights a couple of times and they turned their lights on. Them being able to see is only the tip of the iceberg. US being able to see THEM is the actual iceberg. An automobile without headlights might just as well BE a moose.

A few years ago the state of Alaska passed a law that all headlights were to be on when a vehicle was being driven. The whiners and cry-babies managed to get it repealed because some of them couldn't remember to turn off their lights when they parked and the batteries went dead; and others just couldn't understand why they'd need to turn headlights on when they could see the road "just fine."

But there are other reasons to have your headlights on even when you think you can see: pavement-colored cars on misty days, muskeg-colored cars against fall foliage, light cars against snow berms, dark cars in patches of shadow on bright days, and yes, moose, all but invisible without headlights.

Surely, whether you agree with the concept or not, we will all be safer, in the long run, if we run with headlights so we are not invisible.

With today's heavy truck traffic, myriad school buses, the general to and from work traffic and the increasingly frequent use of our highways and byways, we need to be seen more than ever.

We also have cell phones, coffee shops and fast food meals all available to us as we drive, all distractions which help magnify the problem created by invisible vehicles.

Most of us are conscientious enough to look carefully before pulling out or passing, but even the most cautious driver can be distracted, or be in a hurry, or have a crying baby in the car and not look carefully enough to spot the car with no headlights bearing down on them out of the fog.

Winter is nearly upon us. We are actually getting a "dawn" and a "dusk" to our days. We will soon have driving in the dark. Let's each make a pact (if we haven't bought a car that does it for us) to always turn on our headlights when we start our vehicles, whether it is dark or light, to care enough about the other people on the road to not be invisible, to care enough about the people we have riding with us to not be invisible.

It's reasonably easy, it's cheap, and the life you save might be someone you love.

Who knows, by spring even the slow learners should have trained themselves to turn off the lights when they park so they don't run down their batteries. Missing just one invisible vehicle passing a truck in a spray of mist on the highway may convey the message strongly enough for even the most stubborn that, in some cases, "it is better to be seen than to see."

Now if I could just find somebody willing to invent headlights for moose!

Marilyn E. Wheeless is a lifelong Alaskan who has been driving the highways and byways of Alaska for over 40 years. She lives "almost" on the North Road with her husband, Kenai City council member John "Ozzie" Osborne.

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