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Blinded by the lights

Hudson Cooper
Posted 2/3/23

As construction continues on the roundabouts on Route 42, the powers in charge seem to be making adjustments on the fly. Lately it seems that some of the huge piles of rocks and dirt that were …

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Random Thoughts

Blinded by the lights


As construction continues on the roundabouts on Route 42, the powers in charge seem to be making adjustments on the fly. Lately it seems that some of the huge piles of rocks and dirt that were removed months ago have just been transplanted to the other side of the construction.  Pardon the pun, but the most “glaring” addition are the overly bright streetlights that were installed after complaints that it was difficult to see the paved luge course that resulted from the plans.

The major problem with the newly installed lights is that instead of being aimed at the road surface, they beam directly into your car’s windshield at certain spots.

Just as you regain your vision, you might encounter more blinding lights. It used to be that drivers had the option of flashing on their high beam headlights when they needed a brighter light to see the road. Common courtesy was if it was too bright, all you had to do was blink your headlights and wait for the oncoming driver’s response.

However, these days, or in this case these nights, many cars are equipped with overly bright LED headlights. Of course, they provide a better view of the road for the driver. But at the same time, they temporarily impede the ability of oncoming vehicles to see. If both cars are using the LED headlights, it becomes a vehicular match akin to jousting matches by knights at night.

The bright blinding lights that impede vision for drivers got me thinking about a way to cope with it. Luckily, I was watching television and I noticed an advertisement for transition eyeglasses. It showed a variety of eyeglass-wearing people making a spectacle of themselves as they stepped into the sunshine as their lenses transitioned to sunglasses. 

I decided to explore the science behind them. So, I transitioned to the internet and did a little research. Technically they are known as photochromic lenses. They remain transparent indoors but automatically darken when they are exposed to UV light. 

Officially “transition” is a trademark name that has evolved into common usage. Much like Kleenex and tissues, the term is used often even though photochromic would be a way to avoid any intellectual property problems should the company decide to take action.

The science behind them deals with the molecules inside the lenses. They are light-sensitive and realign their structure when hit with UV rays. The new structure allows those molecules to absorb light and make them darker. Once the UV light goes away, those talented molecules return to their original structure and the lenses once again become transparent.

I wondered if a similar transition could be applied in car windshields. For glass lenses, the interior molecules are made of silver halide crystals. When hit with UV light the crystals gain an electron and becomes capable of absorbing light, making the lenses darken. Plastic eyeglass lenses transition using different molecules. But since I was seeking a way to use the science for cars, I only delved into glass.

I learned that years ago, General Motors designed a windshield that included a UV blocker that, although did not darken the glass, was able to divert the bright sunlight.

I wonder if it’s possible for some scientist to produce a glass windshield that would react to bright headlights or streetlights instead of just UV light. Since the lights only bother the driver, maybe it would only require a segment on the driver’s side instead of the entire windshield.

These “Bright Light Blockers” would certainly make driving at night less stressful. The coming roundabouts may be difficult to maneuver around. It certainly would help if you weren’t blinded by oncoming headlights.

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.


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