It is sometimes illuminating to drive in the rain

Blog post posted on 22/09/16 |

Some comments received after the recent edition of RoadSmart magazine got me thinking about automatic systems fitted to our vehicles and how reliant upon them we can allow ourselves to become.

Auto light setting has been around for some time now. It will ‘usually’ respond to a reduction in light levels and switch on the headlights,  keep them illuminated whilst the light levels are reduced and then for a short time after it detects an improvement. Now here’s the thing. Sometimes I want the lights on when the auto setting doesn’t, I might want them to coincide with a shower in the sunshine: the sensors often don’t agree.

That brings us on to auto wipers. I am sure we have all experienced the wipers going berserk at the first spot of rain and then struggling to cope a short time later. Again there are times when I want to make the decision of when and how fast to suit my needs.

If you leave everything on auto sometimes you may not get what you bargained for. Modern cars will illuminate the dashboard whether the lights are on or not and LED running lights will give the impression of headlamps on a dark morning, so how were you to know your partner had altered the switch until the nice constable (aren’t they getting younger) mentioned it.

We become accustomed to ‘what we expect’ and unless we make a conscious effort to check, sometimes ‘see what we think we see’. I have adopted a strategy of switching off all of the auto settings when I stop, that way I know what position the switches are in. As part of my cockpit drill the next time I drive I make a positive decision to switch on the auto settings to suit my needs for that journey.

I will invite the driver aids described above to join me on some journeys but it will be my decision. Some other driver aids such as ABS, ESP, EBD and all of the other 3 letter miracles, contained within my car or bike’s computer brain are not getting a polite invite – they will remain switched on at all times and if as a result of an error on my part or someone else’s mistake, they decide they need to join the party they will be welcome to help in any way they see fit. 

Let’s use our driver aids and auto systems to our advantage but make it a ‘positive’ thing.

Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards.