The headlights and turn signal design blunder

Automotive safety has been severely compromised by an apparently widespread design decision for which I see no apparent justification. It is not universal, but it is commonplace, and it engenders great concern on the part of this writer.

I have noticed, and I have been appalled by, the apparently deliberate decision by some automobile manufacturers to extinguish one headlight whenever a turn signal is activated.

I assume that when someone is driving at night in the dark, one will turn on the automobile’s headlights in order to see what, and who, is in the nearby vicinity. In my own car, if I come to where I need to signal a turn, I turn the signal light on which starts that yellow light source flashing and as I do so, both of my headlights remain lit.

However!! I have noticed in many new vehicles that when a turn signal is activated, the car will extinguish whichever headlight is on the same side of the car just as the flashing turn signal lights up.

The two protocols are seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1 A look at the two turn signal protocols.

To my thinking, having one headlight go dark is utter madness. The total light output that is directed toward where the vehicle is about to go is cut in half. Vital illumination is lost at exactly the time and place when the driver’s need for adequate illumination is most urgent.

One quick aside: This issue is not limited to passenger automobiles. I have seen the same unwarranted situation with vans, pickup trucks and so on.

To my thinking, this is a major, and worse yet, widespread, design blunder which cannot be justified. In the however distant future when I need to buy a new car, it will be my top priority to choose a car with headlights which when I turn them on, they will stay on at all times.  

John Dunn is an electronics consultant, and a graduate of The Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (BSEE) and of New York University (MSEE).

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