So just who is ‘The Prince of Darkness?’

Blog post posted on 23/08/17 |

As a fan of that old rocker Ozzy Osbourne we all know he really is ‘The Prince of Darkness’.  However, back when cars were simple and motorcycles leaked oil, there was another man often referred to by this tag - way before black leather and long hair for men was considered in vogue. 

Those of you of a certain vintage (my father told me) will remember that electrical systems created by the company Lucas Industries were still in their infancy, they had large switches with Bakelite knobs carrying high current loads.  As such all those wonderful now classic cars and bikes had some rather questionable electrics that could fail just when you needed them most.  So Joseph Lucas, the founder of Lucas Industries, was the original Prince of Darkness to many motorists back in the day.

Rush forward to 2017 and the technological achievements in the motor industry have been nothing short of incredible in terms of automatic systems.  Automatic wipers, automatic headlamps, daytime running lights, or DRLs as they are known, all making life simpler and easier for the average motorist.  With technology, it can sometimes fix one problem and create another.

I first witnessed this phenomena when Ford decided to have instrument panel lights illuminated continuously.  No longer did they come on with the sidelights, or more correctly position lamps, they came on with the ignition and stayed on at all times with just the brightness automatically adjusted. So a driver would be fooled into thinking all the exterior lights were on as they could see the instrument lights.  Many drove round being flashed at by others and wondering what it was all about.

Now, even in the most ordinary of vehicles, we have automatic systems for the lights, wipers and those retina burning DRLs.  I say that as so often they are still on at dusk instead of the required headlamps. Their light scatter is very different to headlamps that have a focused beam. Of course as the instrument panel is still illuminated, we have drivers who simply drive and think that their car will sort out all their lighting requirements for them. 

Even the most sophisticated automatic lighting systems still need a manual intervention by the driver at certain times, in particular in bright conditions that include rain, fog and mist.  I’m lucky my car manufacturer links the front DRLs with the rear position lamps, so I am never knowingly under illuminated at the rear!

Another bête noire of mine is those who drive round having put on their sidelights when headlamps are most definitely required.  I suppose it doesn’t concern them that they are actually breaking the law, unless they are on a restricted road with good visibility or parked. 

Do they even know what a restricted road is? I doubt it. I once heard an expression ‘headlamps are for seeing with, sidelights are for being seen.’ That is completely wrong and those who believe that are clearly vying for the next Prince(cess) of Darkness award.

Enjoy the drive and ride.

Shaun Cronin, IAM RoadSmart regional service delivery manager (Southern)