It's that time of year again, when both morning and evening commutes are in the dark, the weather is turning wet and chilly, and the road surfaces are getting trickier. I'd like to say a word to all car and van drivers on behalf of motorcyclists. Please, please, please make sure your headlights are adjusted properly and don't use fog lights, either front or rear, unless absolutely necessary. I know that some of you have them angled forward and call them 'driving lights' (what else would they be? Knitting lights?) but the result is the same.
We - bikers - don't have windscreen wipers, and what for you is a hard glass windscreen is, for us, a bit of soft plastic that scratches almost without touching - and costs 30 or 40 quid a pop to replace. Proper rain, paradoxically, is OK, as the water beads up and is blown off as long as you keep up a decent speed. But light rain or, worse, mist leaves a coating of cloudy droplets on your visor and cuts both visual penetration and contrast. Double that, treble that, if you have followed a lorry or bus which is sucking up a mist of road muck in its wake. 100 yards is enough. Bad enough when wet, but then it dries opaque.
Add an unlit road, and an approaching car with main beams on (or squinty dipped beams, or macho 'fog' lights) and you are literally riding into a black hole. You can see nothing, not the edge of the road, nor the surface, nor if there are any pedestrians tucked away in the shadows. The only answer is to pile on the brakes, slow down to a crawl and hope for the best.
The blazing rear fog light when it isn't foggy has the same effect (although the red is easier to deal with, and it's 21W x 2 rather than 60W x 4). In proper fog, a life-saver; in light rain or clear conditions a painful and annoying added hazard. But they are 'safety features', so it's OK to leave them on, right?
One thing about misused rear foglights that MajorGav didn't mention is the brake reflex on busy roads and motorways. You get attuned to the brightness level of everyone's rear lights, and when you see a much brighter one you assume someone up ahead is braking. You look, you react, and are ready to brake. When some muppet with a fog light on is up ahead, you keep seeing this between the other cars and the brain keeps twitching the brake reflex. That's annoying enough (the brain constantly going onto high alert for nothing) but it's also dangerous - after a while you become acclimatised, and then when somebody does brake in a genuine emergency, you just think "oh, it's that twat with the fog light again" and fail to react. Cue massive pile-up when nobody reacts in time.
Please just remember the Highway Code, Section 226:
You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.It's not difficult: switch them on when the fog makes it hard to see, and switch them off when visibility gets better. Everybody's happy.
And having four lights at the front does not make your car go faster, or give you a bigger willy.