Indians and their obsession with high beams

I drive a lot. A couple of months back I drove from Delhi to Tripura, crossing 7 states. From tier-one cities to the remotest villages, I drove every type of road in India. And one common practice I found across India is the use of high beams on the roads. It can cause shock, temporary blindness. And the consequences can be horrific, especially when one is driving at a high speed.

To top that modern cars use LED lights with advanced reflectors that beam your eyes directly to make everything gloomy. Recently I saw this ad by Mercedes Bens where they showed how their headlights were going through a cow. It is almost impossible to guess the space and speed, especially when you drive on narrow roads with opposite traffic. The irony is the truck drivers on the highways use headlights much more efficiently than the city drivers. 

So today, I thought I should do some research and write about it. The first question that comes to mind is

Why do we use high beam headlights everywhere?

  1. We are very aggressive on roads. We start late and try to drive fast. It’s a typical Indian thing. We all know how difficult it is to drive from the opposite direction if the headlight is on a high beam, we just simply ignore it.
  2. Lack of proper knowledge and training among drivers. The training that I got in the driving classes does not cover the use of high beams and low beams. The driving test checks our control and knowledge of traffic signals but ignores headlights.
  3. There are laws against using the high beam in city or single lane roads where cars pass close. But the rules are not enforced properly.
  4. During rain or foggy days, the high beam seems to give better visibility. But this is more dangerous for the cars coming from the opposite directions.
  5. Lack of civic sense and danger.

What are the rules/ laws against using high beam on roads?

The use of high beams headlights is to provide a clear view to the driver at places with no immediate source of light and the traffic is scarce. That means we should use low beam headlights if a vehicle is within 200 meters, to ensure a safe gap. This is applicable when the vehicle is approaching from the opposite side or lies right in front of us.

If the high beam is used where it is not necessary, one is liable for a ticket of INR 1000 as per sections 112 and 177 MVA(Motor Vehicles Act). There can be a subsequent fine (up to INR 3000) too.

How to deal with high beams on roads? 

I’ll start with what we should not do. I earlier used to high beam other drivers in hope that they will notice their behavior. But when I used to flash, only a few used to switch back to low beam while the remaining were immune to my high beam flash. Some even switched to low beam only to switch on high beam again a moment later in a deadlier move. I realized this can be dangerous. One blind driver is always better than two blind drivers.

So my new technique is to follow the front left tire and drive. It gives me a comparatively safe feeling.

Hope this will help you drive safe. Cheers.

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