Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Campaign Re: "Parking Lights"

Parking lights are those little orange lights on your car that come on between the off setting on your lights nob and the on setting on your lights nob. I've decided to start a one man campaign regarding them and I'm hoping that I can use the magnified voice of my blog to enlist the support of others.
Here's the trouble. People seem to use these lights when it is dusk or dawn (I'm not really ever up at dawn but I assume this to be true on occasion). I'm not sure what the logic is but I guess they figure it is not dark enough for them to need lights to see me but it is dark enough for me to need extra lights to see them. I would not have a problem with this except that then people often forget to turn their full lights on as it gets darker because their dashboard lights are on and they are in the city so things outside are illuminated anyway.
This is a somewhat dangerous situation and ever since that dumb urban legend I've had a moments concern (not quite concern but thought anyway) after I flash my lights to tell these people theirs are off. There is no advantage at all that I can think of to turning on your parking lights but not your actual lights at dusk. The actual lights are easier for other cars to see and they make it easier to see in the failing lights. I suppose the added power needed to run the headlights might decrease gas mileage a tiny tiny bit but I doubt that is the real concern of these parking lights users.
Since there doesn't seem to be any benefit to using them instead of actual headlights and they do pose a certain am mount of danger my first thought was that that option should be removed from cars. Let's just go from off to on.
Then I paid a bit more thought to the matter and realized that they are called "parking" lights. So I looked into the origin of the name. It seems that they were originally put on cars because when a car was parked it was often in the way of other traffic. Therefore, when the car was parked they would leave the parking lights on so that other drivers would see them. We no longer really need that function in everyday life because our roads mostly all have parking lanes on the sides now.
Here's my idea. We've got these lights. Their former purpose has been outdated. Let's use them in a new way. I think that these lights should be used whenever we are in the process of parking. Such situations would include when we are driving slowly looking for a parking spot, when we are stopped waiting for another car to vacate a spot, and when we have pulled past a spot and are intending to back in and parallel park. Each of these situations lack the proper signaling ability needed and can often lead to miscommunication with other drivers. If we simply used our parking lights to indicate that we are parking I think we could all be a bit better informed.
What do you think? Will you support my campaign to get parking lights to be understood as lights for parking again?



AdamB said...

The reverse lights work pretty well for parallel parking, I think.

In Chicago people use these lights all the time. They just leave them blinking whenever they are illegally parked to show that they'll be back soon.

Matt Grosso said...

You're thinking of the blinkers. That's not the same as parking lights. The parking lights are not the same lights as the turn signals. I agree that reverse lights can work for parking but I think that these in addition to reverse lights could be very helpful.

AdamB said...

oops, you're right!

Two more thoughts:
1. Why have them at all? Seems they are obsolete and cars could be cheaper (or better at the same cost) without them.

2. Why use them to signal the act of parking? Suppose there is a whole set of things that go uncommunicated by exterior automotive lighting. Surely some are more important than others, by whatever criteria you want to use. Why have them communicate that particular activity?

3. It seems like your problem isn't with people using parking lights in this manner, but rather that they forget they're using lights in this manner. Then why not start a campaign to remind people, or to install features that automatically remind people? One effective feature might be to disconnect the dashboard lights from the parking lights.

4. My biggest peeve about exterior car lighting is that brake lights only have one intensity. There should be some indication of the level of deceleration.

5. How much longer are cars going to be around anyway?