NOTE: The original version of this story was posted on May 20, 2011. It has been updated with new information regarding the Anti-HID bill.


Something funny came across my computer screen the other day.

Two of our congressmen, Neri Javier Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, are seeking a ban on high intensity discharge headlamps on our cars. He cited that the use of "non-standard headlamps" (which I assume to be upgraded from the standard halogen headlamps) are "not in consonance with traffic safety standards."

If you do happen to be reading this Representative Colmenares, I do hope you or your staff are willing to take a few notes.

I haven’t read the actual document that you filed, which happens to be House Bill 2616, but based on what the press release from the House of Representatives has to say, it seems to be have been conceived by someone who doesn’t have any in-depth automotive knowledge… well, apart from what can be learned at Brand A or Sosyal Driving School.

The advent of high intensity discharge bulbs are probably one of the most important innovations applied for automobile safety. HID lamps are bulbs that produce higher lumen outputs for less electricity thanks to the gas that enhances the power of the light. In short, you get more light for less electrical load. Neat, isn't it?

More to the point, having lights that provide the best and most efficient illumination (vis-a-vis electricity consumed and heat expended) is a great thing to have when you’re driving at night, especially in a country with woefully inadequate street, highway, or expressway lighting, not to mention the fact that some of them are not always switched on at night. You say having HIDs is “unsafe”, but in actuality, having HIDs actually improve driver visibility at night, and that is a fact.

I do agree with the argument that dazzling oncoming traffic with bright lights is definitely unsafe, especially since my own eyes are quite sensitive to light. However, we should discern if the unsafe driving environment that results from such lighting is caused by the actual bulbs’ output, the bulbs’ color temperature (more on that later) or the loose nut behind the wheel who just won’t shut off his high beam setting, making it a simple matter of common road courtesy.

If you really want to press the HID issue, then perhaps you should shift your attention to improperly aimed headlamps instead. HIDs and other headlamps have aiming devices on them, allowing a mechanic or the owner to aim the beam so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic. HID retrofits should come with projector assemblies to focus the beams of light onto the road and not straight ahead. On that note, it wouldn't matter if it was an HID bulb or a regular halogen bulb; you'll get dazzled either way.

Also, you might want to specify a certain color temperature for the lights sold on the market, drawing the line between what is safe for use on the road versus those which are unsafe. As a general rule, a bright 'super white' light (5000 Kelvin and above) tend to bounce off the surface while warmer yellowish colors (3000 Kelvin, thereabouts) illuminate the road better.

While you propose that there be high fines for having HID headlamps, how do you propose to address the fact that car manufacturers offer HIDs as standard equipment on their most high end models? Are they supposed to call their headquarters in Japan, Germany or the United States to have them install just halogen bulbs instead? And what about the cars that have already been sold and are equipped with such bulbs? Are they supposed to downgrade their cars to halogens? Please enlighten us as to how this is supposed to be enforced. Don't get us started on who's going to foot the bill on re-fitting or reversing the retrofit of cars already with Xenon lighting systems to halogens. Maybe your respective pork barrels can do that for us.

It really doesn’t make sense why you’re pushing for this, though from what I read, this was prompted by a fatal accident involving a taxi being ridden by personal friend of yours and a passenger bus, and for that you have my condolences. However, I find this reason odd because I have never ever seen a bus on our roads that are equipped with HID headlamps, so again, the real reason why you’re trying to pass HB 2616 to law is beyond me.

What you propose is a mere band aid solution; just another quick fix to a tiny problem in a sea of big ones. You focus on HID headlamps, yet fail to actually address the problems that concern roadworthiness or simple driving courtesty and safety.

How many times have we heard of some dilapidated jeepney or bus careening carelessly due to failed brakes? Other countries have standardized automotive testing, wherein police officers or the government body responsible for motor vehicles actually test the cars that are up for registration to check things that affect roadworthiness. Tires, wipers, lights, and other things are checked, making sure the car is not only fit for the road, but safe to drive for the driver, passengers, other cars and pedestrians. Addressing this issue would be a much more comprehensive improvement on road safety.

If you wish to pass into law a ban on HIDs, go ahead. In my opinion, it’s really just a waste of time, effort and taxpayers’ money.

Oh, and the paper it’s printed on too.