Why did French cars have yellow dipped and high beam headlights? We enlighten you on this specificity coming from France…
Remember. Not so long ago, the headlights of our little cars were all yellow. Specifically, cars registered in France“. Before the 90s, our cars were therefore easily recognizable abroad, especially at night! But why this French specificity ? We enlighten you on the subject…
A decree of November 3, 1936 which imposes yellow headlights
The obligation to change the headlights to yellow comes from a order dated November 3, 1936. Initially, the obligation concerns vehicles put into circulation from April 1937 then all vehicles from 1939. It will actually be necessary to wait until the end of the Second World War to see all vehicles adopt yellow headlights.
A first part of the explanation would therefore come from there: in 1936, France would have adopted the yellow headlights in anticipation of a possible new war, to better recognize enemy vehicles in particular. However, some still dispute this explanation today, the sources coming to lack. This is often the case in decisions classified as “secret defence”. The very serious “French documents” thus notes that the adoption of yellow headlights has been made ” at the request of the military “.
A second explanation comes from the fact that the scholars of the time were convinced that the yellow light was less dazzling for motorists.
The Academy of Sciences wrote in 1934: “Observations made by users, and particularly by those with a scientific education, show that the headlight illuminated in yellow light dazzles less than white light, and that when two cars meet, the duration of the rehabilitation period of the eye after glare is notably reduced. Yellow light results in less reflected light on fog in hazy weather, or on liquid droplets in rainy weather. It seems to increase the value of the contrasts and thus reduce eye fatigue. »
The measure ended in the early 1990s. After more than 50 years of prohibition, white headlights are new the norm for vehicles registered in France.
At 1er January 1993 precisely, all new vehicles, including military vehicles, were equipped with these white headlights. In particular, this allowed to standardize the lighting system vehicles throughout Europe.
Today, if you own a car which was registered before this date and which has yellow headlights, don’t panic, you will always have the right to ride!
Indeed, article R-313 of the highway code stipulates: all motor vehicles must be fitted at the front with two or four main beam headlights emitting a yellow or white light forwards so as to effectively illuminate the road at night, in clear weather, over a minimum distance of 100 meters “.
If you want to stand out on the road with your old headlights, it’s always possible!
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