Blue headlights issue resolved

Factory-installed HID lights OK, not blue bulbs

Christmas Eve may not have sounded like a good day to go to court, but Shemaiah Kaya Grant received a satisfactory resolution to his problem and other drivers will benefit from it.

Mr. Grant had appeared in Traffic Court charged with using a light of a colour other than that which is allowed by law – namely, the headlights referred to as blue.

Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale earlier in the year had declined to convict persons charged with having blue headlights. Her concern at the time was that the law was not specific enough in that it referred to external lights, not headlights (Caymanian Compass, 24 August 2009).

Since then, the magistrate said, she had received a brief on the subject from Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward.

‘I am persuaded I have read the statute too narrowly,’ she advised in open court. The magistrate agreed that headlights are external lights and must be either white or amber.

One problem, she indicated, was that some blue lights are actually white, although they had a bluish aspect.

High Intensity Discharge headlights have a slightly perceptible blue appearance, the magistrate continued. Regulations in both the USA and UK allow their use. The UK regulations refer to European approval of HIDs.

White covers a spectrum of colours, the magistrate pointed out, noting the practice of adding bluing to white laundry to enhance its whiteness.

‘I propose to adopt the UK position and note that the US Department of Transportation has also accepted that the HID lights are ‘white’ for the purposes of federal laws,’ the magistrate said. This is because the light emitted falls within the boundaries of ‘white light’.

According to the US federal regulations cited, ‘white’ is defined as ‘blue, yellow, green, red and purple boundaries within a chromaticity diagram.’

Since HID headlights are considered white by international consensus, it made sense for Cayman to adopt that position.

However, she cautioned, this position refers to factory-installed HIDs.

‘I also intend to adopt the position of the UK Department of Transport and say that the installation of an HID bulb into a halogen headlamp will offend the regulations. The entire headlamp unit must be replaced with one designed and approved for use with HID bulbs.’

In the meantime, she urged authorities to give urgent consideration to developing regulations concerning HID headlamps. She pointed out that they are factory-installed in many of the newest models of Japanese and European cars.

That fact is what led her to dismiss the charge against Mr. Grant. He had come to court on 21 December and explained that his vehicle had arrived on island with HID headlights. The magistrate asked for evidence and on the 24th he returned with a letter from Tony’s Toys.

The letter confirmed that the vehicle had been examined and found to have factory-equipped headlights.

Acting Sergeant Kathleen Ryan, who conducts cases for the prosecution in Traffic Court, said later that a number of car owners had pleaded guilty after hearing the explanation. Others pleaded not guilty and were given a date to return with evidence that their headlights are truly HIDs.

The UK regulation cited by Mr. Ward and referred to by the magistrate makes it clear that blue bulbs are not permitted.

Further, it is not permitted to convert an existing halogen headlamp unit for use with HID bulbs. The entire headlamp unit must be replaces, including outer lends and reflector. Once fitted to the vehicle it must have headlamp cleaning and self-levelling, and the dipped beam must stay on with the main beam.

It must be maintained in good working order, kept clean and adjusted correctly like any other headlamp.