Aren’t reverse lights sacred?

Over the past couple of weeks, there have a fair number of occasions where I thought someone was going to back out of a parking spot while I was approaching. Of course, I stopped to avoid get hit, but then I noticed that the driver is out of the car and walking toward the store.

Maybe I just haven’t been all that observant before, but what seems to be happening is that the clear reverse/backup lights on the rear of the vehicle are being turned on as a sort of courtesy light. My truck, for instance, leaves the headlights on for a minute after I lock the doors, which I assume is to illuminate my surroundings as I leave the vehicle. It’s a logical extension of the same principle to use the reverse lights for this purpose as well.

The problem is, reverse lights already mean something: the vehicle is in reverse. Moreover, when the reverse lights are used as courtesy lights, the brake lights and other tail lights are not on. What that means to me is: the vehicle is in reverse, AND the brakes have been released. In other words, “I’m coming back right now!”

The vehicle I can remember off the top of my head that exhibited this behavior was a Pontiac Torrent SUV. I don’t remember what the other vehicles were. Does anyone know what’s going on? This feature just seems like a really poor choice to me.

On a totally unrelated note, I’m going to wire my turn signals to flash with the beat any time my car stereo is on.

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  1. I hadn’t noticed the reverse lights thing, but then I don’t get out much. As for the rewiring the turn signals–can you really do that? What would mine look like if I played my “Riverdance” cd?

  2. I could be way off, but do the back up lights light up when the lock on the keyfab is triggered or maybe those are the brake lights? I don’t think that is so on the Subaru, but perhaps on the Ford (wait it’s in the shop because it has non-working brakes.) Interesting turn signal theory.

  3. I think you’re right – it is when trigged by the key fob. I _think_ my cargo light on the back of the cab of the truck comes on in the same way, but not the brake lights. Twice I’ve been flagged down at stoplights and reminded that I left that light on. Clear lights don’t belong on the rear of a vehicle, and the people who flagged me down apparently felt pretty strongly about that too.

  4. I don’t think reverse lights are even required by law, unless they’ve changed that recently. They’re just intended to light up what’s behind you so you can see when backing up, like mini headlights.

    Take this for whatever it’s worth, I haven’t bothered to research it at all. My memory is based on taking the driver’s ed class in high school. The private courses teach it in 6 weeks, but the high school has to stretch that out to 4.5 months, so they dragged out every inane thing they could think of to talk about. One of them was a detailed list of all required and prohibited lights. All I know is reverse lights were not required and had no actual meaning under Utah law as of 1989.

  5. Surprisingly, Google failed me in quickly locating the laws on automotive lighting. I found a lot of disagreement about whether they were required, but not a lot of discussion as to whether they are prohibited. What I need is a 16 year old, at least one who paid attention in Driver’s Ed, to weigh in. Among my five readers I don’t think I have anyone in that demographic!

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