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Automatic Headlights Should Be Mandatory

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author photo by Eric Brandt March 2018

There are very few things that I think should be mandatory when it comes to cars. However, requiring automakers to have basic safety features like seatbelts and airbags in their products is probably a good thing. Regulation like this has been moving several steps further over the years with new requirements, like a car's ability to support itself on its roof in the event of a rollover crash, technology like tire pressure monitoring and electronic stability control and even rear view cameras are going to be mandatory soon so we can still see behind us with massive pillars obstructing our view.

But there is one feature in cars that I cannot believe is not mandatory: automatic headlights. Automakers are always talking about active and passive safety -- and what easier, cheaper measure can be taken for passive safety than automatic headlights in every car? Pretty soon, every new car sold in America will be required to have a rear view camera, but it's okay if it has the ability to drive around in the dark with its lights off.

I can think of few things more dangerous in normal, everyday driving than driving at night with the lights off. Obviously, visibility is important to regulators, because there are all kinds of rules about headlights, tail lights, turn signals, hazard lights and reflectors. What's the point of all of that regulation if a motorist has the ability to just not use their car's lights at all?

I don't know the specific cost that's involved with equipping a car with automatic headlights, but I can't imagine it's very expensive. Is it just the cost of a light sensor in the dash and a different headlight switch? Remember when GM started putting OnStar in every single car from the Cobalt to the Corvette? Keep your OnStar and just give everyone automatic headlights so they can see and be seen -- which I assume is cheaper than the hardware required for OnStar.

There's no DOT regulation in the world that can eliminate bad driving -- but at least giving us a greater ability to see the bad drivers by forcing them to have their headlights on at night would surely make us all safer on the road and prevent accidents.

It's illegal to sell a new car that does not have a trunk release handle inside the trunk, but it's perfectly legal to sell a new car with the ability to drive around at night with no lights on. Maybe the powers that be should think about changing that.

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Automatic Headlights Should Be Mandatory - Autotrader