A rabbit in the headlights

As I have said before, I am used to living here now. The transition to country life has had its good and bad parts, but on balance, life here is very good, at least for those of a ‘certain age.’

I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am now reconciled with the lack of choice for eating out, although it would be nice to enjoy a Tapas, or perhaps a Greek Mezze, without having to drive into Norwich. Never mind, I have had my share before, so it’s not as if I am missing out. I have also resigned myself to the strange ‘closed on Mondays’ thing that is the norm here. I just don’t go out to eat on a Monday, unless for an Indian meal, as they are always open.

Anything I might miss as a result of choosing to no longer live in a city, is easily balanced by the peace and quiet, feeling safe, and enjoying the benefits of country and coast, not far from my door. Then there is Ollie to consider. He is a country dog, afraid of traffic and loud noises, content in the knowledge that he will be going somewhere exciting, even if it mostly the same place everyday. He would not even like town life, let alone that in a city. So, contentment reigns. Sort of.

There is one thing about living outside of a city that I don’t think I will ever get used to, or become comfortable with, as I came to it too late in life.

Driving after dark is a chore. After a lifetime of well-lit roads and urban motorways, driving along country lanes, and on the unlit major roads of East Anglia is something I really don’t like. The constant oncoming streams of headlights, unfamiliar bends and junctions, all add up to a very taxing driving experience. This is made much worse by the current habit of most drivers to use main-beam headlights at all times, and not bothering to dip them when they see another car (me) approaching. Add to this modern high-intensity lights, fitted to some sports and luxury cars, and driving becomes something like trying to navigate with a searchlight directed into your face. If that wasn’t enough, many local drivers also utilise their additional driving and fog lights, whatever the conditions. A small hatchback coming towards you might appear to be the size of a medium truck, illuminated by up to six forward-facing lights.

Years ago, lights on cars were not that great. You had to use main beam to see anything, but there was an accepted courtesy, an unspoken rule of the road; you dipped them when something came the other way, or was in front of you. This once widespread practice now seems to have been abandoned in this ‘I’m all right Jack’ society that surrounds us. As long as they can see a few hundred yards ahead, enabling them to drive too fast, in perceived safety, they don’t care about blinding other road users. Modern headlights are so much better than they were even ten years ago, so the use of main beam should only be necessary on stretches when you are the only car visible.

OK, I am moaning again. Sorry. But it really makes a difference. I now hate driving after dark, which in the winter is anytime after 4pm. It has become wearing, and dangerous too. Dazzled by oncoming lights, I have missed turnings, driven too fast into sharp bends, and narrowly avoided hitting cyclists and parked cars. Returning home after a long drive here, I feel worn out, eyes tired, body tense from the stress of this unnecessary experience. For all those who know no different, who have always driven on unlit roads, this might all seem silly.

But believe me, I really am like a rabbit in those headlights.

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23 thoughts on “A rabbit in the headlights

  1. Yup. I moved to a village in Cornwall from a city in the US (Minneapolis). It’s beautiful beyond belief, it’s quiet, people have been friendly and amazingly accepting. But I do miss eating out. I mean, I can eat out, but I miss enjoying eating out. Can;t have everything, though.

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    1. Minneapolis to Cornwall, now that is a move Ellen. The Cornish have a reputation for being hostile to those not from that county, so I am pleased that you haven’t found that. Maybe it’s just us other English people they don’t like!
      Thanks for the comment, and best wishes from Norfolk. Pete.

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      1. An English incomer told me she once asked someone Cornish about that reputation. He told her he was happy to talk with her because she talked with him instead of walking past like he wasn’t there. (I’m paraphrasing.) Best guess? The reputation’s exaggerated.

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        1. I had a relative in Cornwall, (Penryn) and we stayed with him every year when I was young. (5-12) I wasn’t aware of any problems then, but I did see some ‘attitude’ many years later, when I stayed in Looe and Boscastle, in the 70s/80s. Glad to hear it has not been an issue for you.

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  2. Pete, I always flash my lights in rapid succession when I see an oncoming vehicle using high beams. Sometimes the hint works; sometimes it doesn’t. I always dim my lights when oncoming traffic is within a mile of me on straight stretches of road, which is mostly what we have around here once you’re out beyond the city limits. Driving in the desert is a pleasure. You can usually see approaching vehicles from several miles away, and they are far and few between. I also have a slight advantage in that I drive a full-size pickup truck, which sets me higher off the ground.

    As for animals in the road, I’ve had a number of very close calls, the most critical ones in recent years being a roadrunner (Rainbow Canyon south of Caliente), and a round-tailed ground squirrel (The Wetlands in Las Vegas). I’ve avoided some suicidal cottontails and jackrabbits, too.

    I succeeded in striking a deer once. Ironically, it was in a small town on a well-lit road. As I passed in front of a lodge in Springdale, Utah (which is located just outside the gates of Zion National Park), a young mule deer bounded in front of me. I was only going 35 mph, but the damage was significant (and costly). As for the deer, it ricocheted off the bumper, regained its footing, and sprang away.

    The most harrowing experience happened in the Sierra Nevada. As I drove around a sharp mountain curve on a two-lane road at night, I discovered in my headlights–not more than 60 feet away–two deer standing broadside to me, one in each lane. It was too dangerous to turn off my lights, and there wasn’t enough time to hit the brakes. So I mentally crossed my fingers and aimed between them. I figured it was better to have a double fender impact and deflect them both to the side than to hit one of them square on. To my surprise, and great relief, they parted just enough for me to squeeze between them unscathed.

    There are lots of mule deer in the West. The forested approach to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is often a veritable obstacle course. I once tried to tally the deer on the road, alongside the road, and in view of the road, and finally lost count. If you’re not familiar with how mule deer run, watch this video:

    There are plenty of opportunities to hit animals in Southern Nevada. In addition to mule deer, we have bighorn sheep, burros, wild horses, coyotes, foxes, desert tortoises, and rattlesnakes, to name a few. Between wild animals and inconsiderate drivers, the road to discovery can be a perilous one!

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    1. It sounds as if you could stock your larder with some well-chosen routes there David. I am pleased that you still dip your lights, and I agree that driving a pick-up probably gives you a non-dazzle height advantage.
      Thanks for the informative comment, appreciated as always.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Pete, it most certainly isn’t just you…. I do think drivers are much less courteous these days. The other thing is that, as we age, our eyes have less acuity, and for many there will be changes to the lens, such as the gradual development of cataracts. Driving in the dark becomes more of a chore….

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  4. Not much different here Pete and I too don’t like to drive at night as it’s far too taxing. People tend to dip their lights but continue to drive in the middle of the road and way too fast! Anyone who fails to dip gets the full beam back from me, flashing as they drive closer.
    Thankfully I don’t go out much 🙂

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  5. I think your observations about driving at night are Universal. I’d rather drive on country roads where there’s less traffic than attempt to navigate through more populated areas where there’s the glare of many bright lights. I recently chose not to attend a social function where I had to drive over a bridge and through a traffic circle because of the glare of lights and the confusion as to which lane I needed to be in once across the bridge. Re-crossing the bridge later would have been even worse as there are several left hand turns in heavy traffic and all those over-bright lights. My heart froze with fear just contemplating the route I’d need to drive. I well understand “Rabbit in the headlights” except the popular terminology in the part of the US where I live is “Deer in the headlights”.

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  6. I have just spent five days in Cork, south west Ireland, a very beautiful place. I had to drive quite a lot at night on narrow country roads and lanes which were pitch black. OK, I did not encounter that many other vehicles but absolutely every one immediately dipped their beams on seeing me, as did I, as I always will because that’s how I was taught and that is the safest action.
    I empathise with you Pete because night driving requires a lot of attention and courtesy, without those it becomes a chore. The only saving grace is that at least you know when someone is coming!
    All there best, Ro xx

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  7. I can relate to this one! I have never particularly liked driving at night even though a lot of my driving lessons were carried out in darkness. And now that I live a good hour away from a motorway that means driving along dark, winding and narrow country roads. I try to time my journeys so that I can get home in daylight, but that’s not always possible and even more so at this time of year. I too get dazzled and blinded especially when cars appear over a hill in front of me when their headlights are directly on my face. Some cars do seem to have exceptionally bright headlights these days – full beam or not. Caution is required and I am always so glad to get home in one piece!

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  8. Pete, great post and I can relate to your dilemma. My car is older than most on the highway here (18 yrs) and I can thank my garage for keeping the body in good shape without any rust attacking the metal. So, when the drivers see me approaching they are not stung in the eyes by my headlights.

    Same thing is happening here too with the newer cars and their high intensity beams. I am blinded at night with sharp pains in both eyes after they finally pass by. I wonder why they feel the need to use their high beams at night when their regular driving headlights are sufficient. Common courtesy has flown the coup it appears.. Be safe out there and good luck 🙂

    Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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