Headlights 101

Dear Street Smarts, Q: How about something reminding people about using their headlights during rainy weather? Thanks! Michael Carrington via email A: You got it! According to the DMV, drivers should use their headlights:
  • Whenever the use of windshield wipers is necessary, the law requires drivers to use their headlights. Than means when it's rainy, foggy, cloudy or snowing.
  • Any time conditions prevent you from seeing other vehicles, such as on frosty mornings in which your windows are icy or fogged up. If you can't see other vehicles, chances are they can't see you, either.
  • When driving on small country or mountain roads, rain or shine. This helps avoid head-on collisions.
  • To get another driver's attention, when necessary.
While we're on the subject of driving in inclement weather, here are some other tips:
  • When driving in fog, rain or snow, never drive with just your parking or fog lights.
  • Use your low beam headlights. Do not use your bright lights, as the beam will reflect back at you and cause glare.
  • Slow down
  • Use your wipers and defroster for best vision as necessary.
  • If the fog or rain worsens, pull off the road and wait until conditions improve. Turn off all your lights. Keep your foot off your brakes. An oncoming car may think you are moving and collide with you.
  • If you cannot see more than 100 feet, it may be impossible to travel more than 30 mph.
  • Try not to pass other vehicles.
Freeway Service Patrol During one of the last rainy days we had, I spent time riding on some of the county's highways with the CHP. Of course, we wound up on Highway 17, were cars were driving too fast and crashing. The incidents were keeping the CHP and Rozzi's Towing busy during the mid-day hours when the county's Freeway Service Patrol program wasn't running. I contacted the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission to find out how we could get the Freeway Service Patrol out there all day during rainy weather. The answer: Money, said Karena Pushnik, agency spokeswoman. “The current funding available for the FSP is insufficient to provide service all day during inclement weather in addition to the service currently being provided during higher congestion periods,” she said. “If additional on-going funding became available for FSP, it might be possible to add all day service during inclement weather.” The Freeway Service Patrol's main focus is to keep traffic moving by helping clear traffic collisions and stranded motorists who've broken down in the travel lanes. The service is free to motorists. Currently, the service operates during the weekday rush hour periods of 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m. You'll also see the white tow trucks running on busy tourist-driven weekends from 1-7 p.m. Under contract with Caltrans, the Freeway Service Patrol's business model is based on a cost effectiveness tool developed by researchers at UC Berkeley’s California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways, Pushnik said. The tool found that the service patrol is most “most effective during periods of higher freeway congestion,” she said. “However, FSP is also very useful during periods of little congestion, especially during bad weather.”
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