LET THERE BE LIGHTWhile the inverters sit in a dusty corner of our well-lit houses, the name of Mr. Kul Man Ghising, has become more popular than rock stars and movie icons in recent months. As of May 14th, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) proudly announced that the country is load-shedding free. Yet we find ourselves and others negligent towards the proper upkeep of our vehicle lights that ensure the safety of ourselves and others on the road. In the ‘90s, police check-points were few and far within the capital. On the rare occasion you would come across one, the ‘Police Uncle’ would ask for your vehicle papers and driver’s license and ensure that all your lights on the exterior of the vehicle were operational. Fast forward a few decades and the prime motive of a checkpoint has changed. Ma-Pa-Se checks are rampant, and rightfully so; but rarely do the authorities or vehicle owners show concern over busted tail-lights, missing side-lights, or headlights that are not turned on at all after dark.

LET THERE BE LIGHTImproper lighting on your vehicle can cause the following roadway dangers:

When you use your high-beams in poor weather such as fog or rain, the light can actually reflect off of water particles, making it harder to see oncoming traffic, animals, and pedestrians. In addition, burnt bulbs or broken brake lights make it extremely difficult for others to spot you.

Brake lights and corner markers are designed to help outline the structure of the vehicle. Without these, others on the road cannot quickly and precisely identify and outline the vehicle in order to avoid a collision, especially on improperly lit streets.Headlights, on the other hand, are designed to illuminate the immediate surrounding with the use of low beams, while the high beams are reserved to help scan farther than normal lights. However, if you forget that your high beams are on or use them all the time, they can cause you to misjudge the distance in front of your vehicle. Not only can this cause delayed braking accidents, but it can also cause collisions by blinding the drivers in opposing lanes.

In pitch dark, the use of high beams are mostly unavoidable. However, if you fail to turn your high beams off when vehicles approach you, the light can temporarily blind the drivers and cause them to swerve into traffic. This may include swerving into your vehicle!

On our chaotic and crowded streets, we witness road rage on almost every commute. Having your brights on while driving behind someone is not only rude, but it can also blind and distract other drivers, infuriating them to the point where they may take dangerous and deliberate actions to retaliate. Stopping or turning without indicating can also instigate other drivers and lead to unwanted confrontation. The above dangers can easily be averted if all road users would address a few key safety features that come outfitted in our vehicles from factory.

While a well-lit street would be ideal, the NEA and KMC have been struggling to keep up with the massive road expansion projects that are in dire need of lighting. Amidst dark alleys and even the poorly lit stretches of Ring Road, we find ourselves squinting at the blinding and crookedly set-up lights of oncoming vehicles. Add rain into the equation and we suddenly have a dangerous cocktail of slippery roads and bright beams reflecting off the wet sheen of the tarmac. While we blame others, our own vehicles might not have proper headlight adjustment. A quick stop at your local mechanic or dealer, and a request with the technicians to properly aim your lights should fix this issue.

While our local transport still figures out what directional side lights to turn on while stopping and turning on to the road, there is still a majority of us that forget to use them while changing lanes or making turns. It all boils down to the chaos that is going on around us with vehicles passing on the left and distractions such as that cow that won’t move out of your lane. Yet, a simple click of the blinkers could let those around you know which way you intend to turn.

Having spent a little over a decade of my life away from Nepal in the United States of America, I have first-hand experience on how a dim or burnt-out brake light is more than enough to get you in trouble with the law. A warning or a fine are your options when it comes to improper vehicle light maintenance. To come from such strict regulation to the dim lit streets of Kathmandu was more intense than the culture shock. A broken or disconnected brake light is one of the biggest reasons for rear end collisions. Without a functional brake light, we have no means of communicating with the vehicles behind us.

In a city where there are no parking spots, parking lights seem redundant. Yet, we find high-end SUV’s pulled over to the side of the road while picking up some vegetables from street-side-vendors, or running into the ATM for some cash. The parking lights and corner-makers play a vital role in letting others know that there is an obstacle ahead in the crowded streets that we share. Make sure they are operational and turned on when you stop in your lane or pull over on the roadway.

There seems to be very limited knowledge and regulations on street approved lights. Most aftermarket LED or HID off-road lights are improperly aimed and pose a high risk to all others on the road. Keep them on for only the darkest situations and be courteous to other vehicles when you see them coming towards you. The best option is to slow down and turn them off when you are in the city! Keep them strictly for off-road use only; as stated on most reputable light housings.

As social beings, communication is key to daily survival. We have spent decades polishing the sign language for the deaf and mute, and if we can figure that out, we can surely take some time out of our busy lifestyle to check a few filaments that enable us to communicate our intentions with those around us. A quick monthly check with you in the driver seat, and a family member or a friend walking around the vehicle ensuring all lights are properly functioning can not only save you a lot of hassle on the road but could possibly save your life.

Please pass these tips to your friends and family, and especially new drivers. Do it for the sake of your own safety.

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