July 3, 2020

Driving Without Headlights in the COVID-19 Pandemic

classic car

I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of the "gubmint" always trying to take away "muh freedoms." Would you believe I got a ticket for driving at night with my headlights turned off? I knew they were turned off because I meant to turn them off. This is 'Murica, and it is my car. If I want to drive around at night with my headlights turned off, I should be free to do so. I could see just fine! It is bad enough that they have laws forcing me to wear seatbelts or telling me that I can't play with my phone while driving.

Yes, the opening paragraph was both sarcastic and fictional. I wear a seatbelt, don't play with my phone while driving, and I'm not actually driving around with my headlights turned off. In fact, I haven't been driving around any more than I've had to since the COVID-19 pandemic started. To the extent possible, I am still sheltering-in-place. Why? Because I don't believe that the pandemic is over. I belong to a couple of high-risk groups, and I have zero confidence that my neighbors are willing to do something as simple as wearing the cloth face coverings recommended by the CDC. Thus, I am staying home as much as I can.

If I had observed repeatedly that more than half of the vehicles on the road at night were driving with their headlights off, I'd do everything I could not to drive anywhere at night because it would not be safe to do so. Sadly, this is similar to what I have observed with respect to face coverings except it seems that fewer than 30% of my neighbors are still using them. That number is probably an overestimate too. Going out in public when so few are taking precautions is not too different from driving at night if few drivers were using their headlights.

Why do most of us seem to have little difficulty recognizing why other drivers should use their headlights? Why does it seem so easy for us to understand how a driver who failed to do so was putting us at risk? Why do few of us have a problem with the idea that someone who refused to use their headlights when driving at night would be sanctioned for doing so? I suppose these are rhetorical questions. The point is that many people seem to have a much harder time with this when it comes to wearing the recommended face coverings.

Nobody is claiming that wearing cloth face coverings is 100% effective in preventing viral transmission. The scientific consensus seems to be that it is better than nothing in situations where social distancing is not possible. They won't necessarily prevent the wearer from contracting the virus, but they do appear to help prevent the wearer from spreading it to others. And nobody is claiming that wearing face coverings doesn't get annoying. The first type I tried was uncomfortable, hot, difficult to breathe through, and kept moving around on my face. The next few were major improvements about which I have few complaints. The idea that I shouldn't have to wear one because "muh freedoms" makes about as much sense as the same argument applied to using my headlights at night.