Chennai: If you’re someone who drives back home ‘after hours’ or after dark, then you’ve probably gotten used to being blinded by extra-bright ‘dazzling’ headlights of cars, that zoom past you in the opposite direction. Hopefully, you haven’t rammed a vehicle, median or a pedestrian, in the few seconds that it takes your eyes to return to normalcy.
Unfortunately, many like Karthik, a Chennai-based youth, haven’t been as lucky, “I was slowing down to take a turn, when a car with dazzling white light roared past in the opposite direction,” he recounts. “As I tried to stop on the curb, I blindly rammed into a parked car,” he adds. Needless to say, the pain and damage sank in after the effect of the blinding lights wore off.
So what exactly are dazzling headlights? Technically, any headlight lamp that is more than 30 watts, fits into the ‘illegal’ category. While traffic cops are lenient enough to let you use slightly more powerful beams than that, it’s the fancy lights that are downright dangerous. Fog lamps, extra bright halogens, spark lamps and white lights that seem straight out the sets of The Fast and the Furious, are definitely going to blind motorists.
Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, puts it simply, “There is a thumb rule we maintain. If the lights used by the vehicle shine directly in the eyes of a person standing eight metres away, this can be booked under law.”
While Karthik’s mishap was not serious, there have been fatalities due to dazzling lights, say cops. This year, there have been 330 fatal accidents and 1,681 non-fatal accidents at night. “While we can’t dump every night time accident on them, we have to consider the possibility as well,” they say.
Though the use of dazzling headlights has been prohibited inside city limits for quite a while, the Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP) have been particularly harsh on cars and bikes with dazzlers this year. As many as 30,202 offenders have been booked for using dazzling headlights, so far in 2012. This is a far cry from the 16,046 cases registered between January and July last year. The thorn in traffic cops’ flesh is that most ‘dazzling’ offenders are rich, influential youngsters who drive high-end cars with extra bright headlamps.
“The number of times we’ve booked cases for a BMW or Honda City, is just amazing. There are now many luxury cars in the city, and we have booked quite a number of them for these dazzling lights,” says an exasperated night duty cop. If it’s not an imported luxury car that’s being too ‘bright’, then it’s usually a souped-up car that’s been fitted with extra bright headlights.
Despite almost 175 cases being booked on a daily basis, Chennai’s youth seem to be oblivious to the fact that such a rule exists. While some were surprised that a rule like this existed, some didn’t know the difference between normal lights and dazzling lights altogether. “What difference does it make? The person opposite me uses them as well,” shrugs one non-chalant driver. It’s this sense of responsibility and respect that is missing among motorists, rues Arora.