Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dipped headlights

When I was learning to drive in New York State all I ever heard about were low beams, high beams and parking lights. I never had any doubt as to what those terms meant. When I moved to Ireland I heard terms like "side lights" and "dipped headlights", but I was never sure what those terms referred to.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that side lights were analogous to the parking lights. I think. However, I never figured out what "dipped headlights" means. I'm pretty sure dipped headlights are the same as low beams, but so many people here drive with what I thought were sidelights, that I've never been certain.

So, this week when I got the new Rules of the Road book I thought I'd have a look through it, hoping to find an explanation. No luck. There's a lot of discussion as to when dipped headlights should be used, but no precise explanation as to what that term means.

There is a five page glossary at the back of the book, but dipped headlights aren't explained there either. I suppose the Road Safety Authority could argue that they can't explain every term in the glossary due to space considerations, but then I wonder if it was necessary to take up space defining any of the following words and terms: abreast (isn't that plain English?), arrhythmia, binocular vision, cardiovascular diseases, congenital myotonic disorders, deceleration (more plain English), Garda Síochána (are we giving out this book free to tourists?), hazard (please!), Luas (is there anyone in Ireland who hasn't heard of it at this stage?), maneuver (okay, manoeuvre - whatever), muscular atrophy, negligence, ophthalmic optician, paraplegia, prescription, or vigilant.

If anyone doesn't know those words of basic English I would assume they'd be more likely to get out their dictionary than to check the back of the Rules of the Road for definitions. And the medical terms? If you need to know, you know and if you don't need to know, you don't know.