Today: what's the best way to let someone know their headlights are off?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

The other night just after dusk, I was driving and noticed a dark-colored car driving behind me in the same direction that didn't have its headlights on. It was actually difficult to see the car except when it passed directly under a streetlight. I wanted to signal the driver to turn on his lights, but was not sure how to do it. So I slowed down enough that he passed me. Then when he was in front of me, I flashed my headlights several times from low beams to high beams. He still didn't turn on his headlights. Soon thereafter, we both had to stop at a traffic light. So I pulled up next to him, opened my window and called out to him that he needed to turn on his headlights. He hollered back to me, road-rage style, something to the effect that he was angry at me for "high-beaming" him. I would have thought he would thank me for reminding him about his headlights. He was a jerk, but I didn't want to see him cause an accident just because his car could not be seen in traffic. So, what should I have done, and what should I do in a similar situation next time? -- Carol

TOM: This is a situation we've all been in, Carol. The first thing you need to realize is that anyone driving at night without his lights on probably has other things on his mind. He's not 100 percent focused on the task at hand.

RAY: What I usually do -- rather than flash my high beams -- is turn my lights off and then back on again several times. But in my experience, it usually takes five or six different cars to get through to someone whose lights are off. So understand, Carol, it's not your sole responsibility to get the message across. It takes a village, in this case.

TOM: You turn your lights off and on, and then another good citizen turns his lights off and on, and so on. And then the guy with his lights off finally says to himself, "Hey, why is everybody turning their lights off and -- d'oh!" That's how the message finally gets through.

RAY: I'd adjust your technique, Carol. But your heart was in the right place. It's just that the lightless guy ahead of you was thinking about the spool of plastic line from his weed whacker that got caught up in the cuff of his trousers and de-pantsed him on the front lawn while a school bus full of teenagers was driving by with their cell-phone cameras, and now he's the most forwarded video on the Internet. You did what you could, Carol. Rest easy.

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