Lights out means danger is on

You know your car is getting old when the types of repairs you need to have done go beyond scheduled maintenance. Case in point: I was stopped at a stop sign at Opal Cliff and Cliff drives near Capitola Sunday afternoon when the motorcyclist who was riding behind me pulled up to the my driver side window and alerted me to the fact that none of my brake lights were working. All three of them were out. Really? That’s why I almost got rear-ended on Friday. I thought the driver simply wasn’t paying attention to myself and the other line of cars stopped at a traffic light. But, perhaps the brake lights were out on my 2004 Chevy Aveo and he was expecting them to be lit as I pulled up to stopped traffic. Anyway, it was a Sunday and no mechanics were open. I stopped at an auto parts store and bought some light bulbs and fuses, thinking I could handle it. But I couldn’t. I could neither get the brake light encasing off, nor could I remove the fuse that powers my brake lights. So, I took my car to the mechanic. There, I learned that my bulbs and fuses were just fine. And after a diagnostic, my car doctor determined my “brake switch” wasn’t fine. The switch is located beneath the foot petal for the brakes, my mechanic said. When I depress the brake pedal, the switch is supposed to get triggered and illuminate my brake lights. That wasn’t happening and the part, which is not stocked at any dealer or auto parts store, had to be ordered. Great! While my car was drivable, I was putting my life in danger by driving it. Or would I? Monday, I was too freaked out to drive and worked from home but that wasn't an option Tuesday. So, during the day, I used my headlight switch to simulate brake lights in the rear of my car. Whenever I braked hard, as if to stop or slow way down, I would turn on my headlights to get my rear lights to shine. When I sped up again, I would turn them off. At night, I used my emergency lights to try to communicate to the vehicle behind me that something was wrong and to back off. It worked, mostly because I tried to avoid driving in areas of high traffic. I used side streets where possible. On major streets, I tried to give myself an extra buffer -- while traveling with the flow of traffic -- between myself and the car ahead so I wouldn't have to use my brakes as much, unless they decided to turn or something. Driving around without brake lights is highly dangerous, said Lt. John Hohmann of the Scotts Valley Police Department. “Without brake lights, you’re putting yourself in the position to get rear-ended,” he said. It also opens me up to getting a fix-it ticket from law enforcement officers who may be behind me and see the anomaly. “It depends on the officer, who has discretion, but it would require a citation to get corrected,” said Hohmann, who said he “quite often will go next to someone and inform that their lights are out.” At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, my mechanic called to say the part is in and to come by ASAP for the repairs. Whew!
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