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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 19, 1914

Secretary May Says Dimming Devices Are Needed for Safe Driving.

One of the motoring problems most urgently in need of solution at the present time is that of the flaring headlight, according to Mitchell May, Secretary of State.

"As the speed of motor cars has increased, so have the power and efficiency of the lighting system improved," said he the other day.  "A light may be so strong that the whole road is illuminated for several hundred yards, every object being bathed in a flood of brilliant white light.  With such lamps it is often perfectly safe to drive at high speeds, and, owing to the absence of continuous traffic, in reality a good deal safer than it would be in daylight.  Yet this very excellence forms the chief drawback to the modern headlight, as any one may prove for himself on any road after dark,

"There are few situations more paralyzing to the traveler of any description than meeting a motor car with powerful headlights.  All that is visible to him is a pair of eye-scorching white disks set in the midst of impenetrable darkness.  Anything that may be on either side of or behind those lights—man or beast—is absolutely invisible to him.

"It is not a simple matter to find a way out of the difficulty.  If a low illuminating standard was set by law matters would by no means be improved, for the travelers in the light of the advancing car would not be clearly visible to the driver, and they would be able to distinguish objects on each side of and behind the car none the better.  A strong light is essential to safe driving.  It is quite as important that the sides of the road for 50 or 100 yards ahead should be in clear view as that the centre of the road should be visible.  The only practical solution which presents itself is that of incorporating some form of glare-subduer in the construction of the lamp itself.

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