Light Fantastic

Lately, there seems to be an obsession with lights – specifically, car lights. A new directive from the health and safety executive in Europe has decreed that people are now so ignorant and blind that they are unable to see any of the huge, multi-tonne, brightly coloured vehicles during the day – unless they’ve got lights on. So, from 2012, this will be a requirement that all new cars will light up the roads, whether the sun is out doing it for them or not.

Volvo have done this for years and, lets face it, a Volvo with their dim lights shining ahead on a lovely sunny day do not look good. Something had to be done to modernise this visual jewelry and Audi would be the first.

Enter the R8. With its bling bling daytime LEDs firing crystal clear white lines in a menacingly shapely arc it signalled the start of a new craze in motoring fashion. All cars are getting in on the act. Even boy racers can buy aftermarket LED strips to chav up their motors. Mercedes have put them on their cars as well, largely to ill effect, but y’know, they’ve had a go. Like they do.

Seemingly happy with their year-round festive creation, Audi have applied the LED design to all models in the range at both ends of the car. The A4 now has eye brows, the A5 squints when an indicator is put on (can’t do both, as the LED lights are too bright you see) and the A3 scowls now as it passes by.

And with attention now on rear lights, headaches are my main point of concern.

My first car was a 1983 Ford Fiesta. It had two brake lights, one on each side. They were about 2″ square and when they lit up, they advised the person behind that I was indeed slowing down. Over time, lights on new generation cars got bigger and bigger.

The Bright Lights of Volvo

The Bright Lights of Volvo

The previous pioneers of motoring safety – Volvo – have been caught up in this area by other manufacturers over the years so clearly they needed something to make their cars extra-safe. They introduced the 3rd brake light years ago – but what now? Well, it would appear that someone at the Volvo Brake Light Design Studio felt they hadn’t been given enough focus of late.

The solution then: Now Volvo new cars have brake lights so bright that they simply burn straight through your retina and into the back of your skull, thus making sure that every inch of your brain is left in no doubt that the car in front is indeed slowing down. Or, as is more likely in Britain’s highly congested roads, the automatic Volvo in front is in fact stationary and the lazy driver is sat with his foot on brake pedal. These lights, akin to the glare from a sun heading to a supernova explosion are so big and so bright that you can do nothing more than be persecuted by the lazy moron in front who hasn’t discovered what ‘Park’ means on the gearbox whilst you queue endlessly on your way home from a tiring day at work. But it wouldn’t be so bad if they were just normal lights. But they aren’t, they have expanded in size and shape and on the estate cars occupy a head-splittingly large acreage of the car posterior. Thanks Volvo.

Bentley, for a long time has had brake lights that are so wide that I’m convinced they are sending messages to outer space. The Space Station can now tell when some well healed individual is stopped in traffic, and you can probably spot them on Google Earth.

Mercedes, obviously thinking this was a good idea applied similar logic to their Compact car – giant strips of red across the boot laughably destroying what little appeal the car had at the arse end of the frame.

And then we come to Citroen. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. They’ve obviously taken a leaf out of the Volvo Estate break-light manual and decided to go one better. Their new people carrier now has wrap-around lights. They head from the middle of the boot, aaaaaalll the way around the top of the car and then down the other side. A bit like a square Christmas tree. When Volvo sees this, there will be hell to pay. Doubtless their next models will have full rear-window lights and the entire glass screen will light up red when the driver touches the stop pedal. Of course, they’ll be made of LEDs so they are super bright. The car will be called the Volvo Nurofen and the pharmaceutical industry will rejoice muchly. Nobody beats Volvo.

At that point, right before the powerful orb in the sky – the Sun – takes its bat and ball home after being made redundant, the Eco Warriors will start bleating about the amount of light-pollution that we’ve now got on our roads.

Me, I’d be inclined to agree.

July 2010