Why do people drive with parking lights on?

Ok, it is less than cosmic, not just mundane, and not going to be a rant, so I hope this is the right forum:

Why do people drive (typically at dusk) with their parking lights on? Are they trying to save their headlights? This makes no sense to me. Until moving to Michigan, I had not seen this much, so maybe all these auto workers know something I don’t. OTOH, I am tired of not being able to see them well when it gets darker and they STILL haven’t turned on their headlights.

I don’t know. It’s illegal in California, but that doesn’t seem to stop people here, either.

I think there’s two reasons.

  1. Some people are indecisive, and it’s their way of ducking out of that oppressive, traumatizing Lights-on/Lights-off decision. They need a clapper, then the mother-in-law can work it while backseat driving.

  2. Some people are nursing a dying battery, while hoping to avoid a twi-light accident. I’ve been guilty of this one, I’m afraid.

P.S. I did learn to drive in Michigan :eek:

My guess it’s a stab at compromising between full headlights for dark and nuthin’. You know, for those dusk, overcast situations when it isn’t really dark dark.

Never made a lot of sense to me either, but I’m trying to understand the rationale here.

And failing.

But now that you mention it, this will graduate from niggly itch to active annoyance.

Wanders off grumbling,

I’ve done that so I can see the gauges in my dark car interior on cloudy/gloomy days.

and park with the driving lights on?
Why is everyone looking at me like that?

Nursing a dying battery? This shouldn’t matter once the car is started, should it?

Some people are freaking stupid, that’s why. I suspect many of these same people are the one I often see who need to be introduced to their turn signals and mirrors.

I’d guess that they don’t realize what they’re doing. Every car I’ve ever driven, even those made by the same company, had a different way of turning on the headlights and the parking lights.

For instance:
In my car right now, a 1993 Dodge Spirit, there’s a knob to the left of the steering wheel. It can be pulled out half way for parking lights, or all the way for headlights. It can also be rotated to adjust the brightness of the internal lights.

In my father’s car, a 1993 Dodge Caravan, which I frequently drive, there are several buttons to each side of the wheel. One of these toggles the parking lights, anotehr toggles the headlights (and no, both can’t be on at the same time). There’s also a sliding switch for internal light brightness (magnitude?).

I’ve driven with only the parking lights in both cars. (Accidentally, of course, but when you’re on the highway or there are a lot of streetlights around, it’s easy not to realize that your lights aren’t on.) In my car, it’s because I didn’t realize I hadn’t pulled the switch out all the way. In his car, it was because I hit the wrong switch.
OTOH, if they do it intentionally… I don’t know.

I’ve been wondering about this for a while, I live in CA and as mentioned it is illegal. I’ve noticed that the most common cars that do it are firebird/camaros and integras, I think the drivers think it makes their car look cool. On a related note, I have no idea what parking lights are even for. I’ve never used them without turning my headlights fully on. Could someone explain the legitimate use of parking lights. Sorry to the OP for the slight hijack

since I am going to answer it.

I haven’t seen anyone do this in the States, but in Germany people frequently use their parking lights when they park for a short time on a narrow road or in a situation where they may not be easily seen. I even knew a guy with an old East German car who could turn on only the driver’s side (front and rear) or passenger’s side parking lights. Pretty cool.

Anyone else ever used them/seen them used (except by dumbasses while driving or folks who are driving unfamiliar cars)?

I was about to post that exact same thing until you said it. We may be on to something here. Does anyone drive a firebird/camaro? Is it easy to accidentally turn the parking lights on? Or is it just because alot of dumb rednecks drive firebirds and camaros?

It makes your car more noticeable, and therefore less likely to be involved in an accident. It is also done when people want to have their internal lights on but don’t want to turn on their headlights - to avoid causing glare, because one of them is out, or because they think it saves gas or something.

It can if, for instance, your alternator is sick, too. Unfortunately I’ve got some experience with that one. :frowning:

Yes… sigh, some of us do… not by choice mind you… I am quite satisfied with the size of my penis, just I got the car very inexpensively from a family member…

And while it is true that a lot of dumb rednecks drive firebirds and camaros… (thoughts of family member come to mind) there is a partial explanation for why the parking lights are often on… the light switch is topped by a disc that is roughly the size of a dinner plate (wee exaggeration here) and it is really easy to think you have pushed it all the way in (to the off position) because you can’t see the stem that connects the disc to the console…

Is that an excuse, or an explanation?

Final note: Camaros are not designed for winter weather… you spend twenty minutes scraping ice and snow off the back window and then you try to pull out and any snow that is on the roof of the car slides down and covers the damn back window.

There ought to be an organization…

“Hi, my name is bagkitty, and I own a Camaro…”

Just about everyone does it here in Japan. I think the theory is that “parking” lights are for making yourself visible to other cars. You turn on the headlight only if it’s too dark to drive otherwise. I don’t find it particularly annoying - I’m thankful when they turn on any kind of light.

Don’t get me started on people who turn off their headlights when stopped at a traffic light…

Parking lights are for parking. If I car has its parking lights on, on thinks that it is parked.
This causes accidents, because the car is moving rather than parked.
Some people think that driving with them on makes them look cool. Little do they know that they look like morons.

Whipping out Occam’s Razor

The simplest explanation being the most likely, I think that these people just don’t know they don’t have their headlights on. At dusk or in well-lighted areas, it might not be obvious to them that they can’t see their lights on the pavement ahead of them. I do a lot of driving, and it appears that a large percentage of drivers on the road are inattentive. Most cars have three-position light switches (off/position lights only/headlights). People probably move the switch to the first (position lights only) stop, believing they activated the headlights. From the inside of the car, there is no indication that the headlights are not on. They see their instrument lights are on and don’t think about the headlights until it gets dark enough to make it obvious they didn’t turn/pull the switch all the way.

Simplest explanation: Operator error.

What about people with daytime running lights, that don’t turn on their lights once it’s dark? Sure, the headlights are on, but not the tail lights (I think). Just as bad, not really, worse?