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The Yankee Express

Chief's Corner Headlights In Your Eyes

By Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
I recently received a question regarding headlights on vehicles.  The person observed the headlights on some vehicles, approaching from the opposite direction, appearing very bright and almost bluish in color.  I was asked if I could provide some information on this and to remind people of the rules surrounding the proper use of high beam headlights.  
There are different style headlights on the market today. They are called High Intensity Discharge or HID headlights. They are installed in many newer vehicles.  They are brighter than typical halogen headlamps, which are currently used on most vehicles.  In addition to the increased brightness, they claim to use less energy and last up to three times longer than halogen bulbs.  They utilize a combination of mercury and sodium vapor as their base material.  The resulting reaction of these items make the lights appear blue.  They are very bright in the high beam mode.
The dimming of headlights is contained in the Massachusetts Registry Rules and Regulations under 540 CMR 22.05.  This section provides several guidelines for the use headlights on motor vehicles.  It authorizes operators to use additional light or “high beams” when there is insufficient lighting on the roadway to “make clearly visible all substantial objects within 350 feet.”  It calls for operators to “regulate” (or dim) headlights when a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction is within 500 feet.  The regular, or “low beam” lights, must be positioned no greater than 42 inches off the ground at a distance of 75 feet.  This is one of the features to be checked during the annual safety inspection of your vehicle.  A violation of this section calls for a civil fine.
Vehicle headlights that are too bright are very distracting for drivers.  This is especially true during rain or inclement weather.  High beam lights can be blinding to oncoming traffic or while shining in rear facing mirrors.  If you have changed halogen lights to the HID lights on your vehicle, please insure they are installed properly.  If they are positioned too high, they can shine additional light into the oncoming traffic, even in regular use mode.  They should be checked by a licensed professional to insure they are positioned in the proper location.  In addition, always pay close attention to your high beam headlights.  Night driving can be difficult enough without added distractions. This is especially true during the winter months.  It takes several seconds for a person’s eyes to refocus after the passing of high beam lights.  A few simple safety steps by drivers can be a key factor in preventing accidents.   
Main and Schofield
The intersection of West Main Street and Schofield Avenue is extremely busy.  The traffic signals were re-cycled several years ago, which assisted with improving safety for drivers.  One problem occurs at this location, as well as many other intersections, when drivers are preparing to turn. Some vehicles will enter this intersection while the light is green, remain there until the light changes to red, then make the turn.  I was asked to bring this issue to everyone’s attention and provide information on this violation.
The rules for stopping at stop signs, flashing red signals, or intersections with traffic lights are contained under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 89 Section 9, 720 CMR 9.06, or other local traffic regulations.  These all provide basic guidelines for drivers to observe when approaching intersections.  Chapter 89 Section 9 states drivers must “(1) stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, (2) before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, if none, (3) then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it.”  It is the obligation of the driver to bring their vehicle to a full and complete stop in the appropriate location.  Vehicles entering an intersection with a green signal must be able to completely pass through the intersection, prior to the light changing to red.  If traffic is backed up, or passing in the opposite direction, limiting movement or turns, drivers have the obligation to delay entering the intersection.  If the vehicle cannot pass completely through before the light cycles, that driver would be committing a violation.  The main reason is traffic from other streets, with the green light, have the right of way to pass through the intersection and the remaining vehicle would prevent them from doing so.  A penalty for a violation is most often a civil infraction.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, the best thing to do is to wait behind the stop line until the intersection is open sufficiently for you to drive through.  It may take some time for this to occur, so it is important to be patient.  By waiting a few extra seconds, you will either have sufficient time to make it through the intersection completely or you will allow traffic to flow freely in the opposite direction when the light changes.  The appropriate signal for you will be along in a reasonable time.  Hopefully your patience can prevent an accident or a possible “road rage” situation.
COVID-19 cases in our area are declining but remain a concern.  For those still seeking vaccination information, it can be found at or by calling 508-949-8036.  We encourage everyone to be safe.  Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.  During these challenging times, we, at the Dudley Police Department, greatly appreciate the support we receive from our community.  
Thanks again for your questions and comments.  Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St. Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at [email protected].  Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.