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  A Strategy for Parking
  The Complexity of Driving
  The Cost of Driving
  In the HOV Lane
  Some Quirks of Mine
> Daytime Running Lights
  Long-Distance Driving
  Driving in West Texas

Daytime Running Lights

I don't like daytime running lights (DRLs). I'm not sure why, but I suspect it is mostly irrational. I do have some thoughts I'd like to present, but although I care enough to write them down, I don't care enough to do any research to back them up, so they are really just pure speculation. You have been warned!

The justification for DRLs, as I understand it, is that there's some correlation between DRLs and safety. Now, one has to be very careful with correlations. It could be, for example, that people who worry about safety enough to buy a car with DRLs are more cautious drivers, and so get into fewer accidents. But, for the sake of argument, let's suppose that the correlation means what it's supposed to mean, i.e., that all other things being equal, a car with DRLs is less likely to be involved in an accident. What would the connection be?

The connection, obviously, is that a car with DRLs is more visible to other drivers, so that they pay more attention to it more visible in two ways, in fact. A car with DRLs looks different than other cars, so it's more visible in relative terms; and the DRLs are bright, making the car stand out from the background, so it's more visible in absolute terms as well.

The problem is, if and when a substantial number of cars have DRLs, a car with DRLs will no longer be relatively more visible. It will still be absolutely more visible, but for most people, driving in traffic, that's not so important. So, the benefit of having DRLs will be lost, or at least reduced, and the collective effort spent on them will have been wasted.

So, we have a situation where there's an incentive to do something, but when everyone does it, everyone loses. Remind you of anything? Yup, it's a good old prisoner's dilemma, just like with SUVs. Actually, it's not just a prisoner's dilemma, it's an evolutionary arms race. Even if everyone has DRLs, a car with, say, blinking DRLs will look different and be safer; and next thing you know, we'll all be driving cars with flashing lights and sirens, painted fire-engine red.

We have to draw the line somewhere, and for whatever irrational reason, I'd like to go ahead and draw it now, and forget about DRLs.

(Maybe part of the irrational reason is that DRLs, being an attention-getting device, remind me of advertising, regarding which see Environment Free of Distraction and Anti-Consumerism.)

 

  See Also

  Great Idea, A

@ July (2002)