Driving In the Dark

gray_park bridge


2013-09-03 – The sixty or so miles from Dubuque, IA to Freeport, IL is mostly a winding and hilly two-lane highway—US 20. And at night it is dark. It’s so dark that it is easy to get lost. Sunday night, when we were returning home from Cal’s alumni soccer game at Grinnell, we saw an intercity bus labeled Honolulu (I am not kidding). Now that is lost! Aloha, oy!

The sky ahead of us was cloudy and flashing with heat lightning almost all the way. The sky behind was clear and I could see the stars. The road was well traveled.

Well-traveled but dark.

The cars were using their brights. We were using our brights. It was hard to see very far ahead without them. No big deal. But we began to notice that no one dimmed their lights when the encountered other traffic (namely, us). Kit was driving. And each time we saw a car approaching us from the east (we were traveling east), Kit dimmed her lights. No one dimmed them back. No one. Not even one.

Did we miss the memo that said, from now on don’t dim your lights for oncoming traffic?

I thought it was common courtesy not to blind the driver who was in a position where he could hit you head on.

Head on collisions used to be a big problem on country roads. In the decades after World War II, this country invested billions to reduce the problem by building divided interstate highways. Yes, that’s why they are divided. And where the median strip is not wide, there are walls and often barriers to shield motorists from the headlights of oncoming traffic.

It helped a lot!

But there are still country roads and, I thought, people kept up the practice of dimming their lights when cars approached.

Have people forgotten this? Or is this part of the general coarsening of people’s attitudes toward even the slightest bit of generous and cooperative behavior?

If that’s it, we’re all driving in the dark.

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