What is the rationale for "parking lights" on a vehicle? Could I be ticketed for illegally using them? How do they differ from "running lights"? -- P.F., of Steeleville
That's easy. Parking lights are for people with houses like the one in which I grew up.
We lived on a major Belleville thoroughfare -- South Belt West -- which made parking a nightmare. You couldn't park in front of our house because South 16th is too narrow. And you certainly didn't want to park in our driveway, because you'd have to risk life and limb trying to peer around a row of hedges as you backed out directly onto that busy beltway.
So that left just one alternative: Both we and visitors often just pulled off South Belt and parked on the shoulder where there was a break in our hedges. Even now I shudder when I think about the horrific accidents that occur when drivers plow into vehicles parked on the side of a busy road. But at night, we'd turn on our parking lights and keep our fingers crossed.
So, it's sort of self-explanatory when you think about it: You use parking lights when you park in an area where leaving an unlit car would pose a hazard. That's why they are usually gold or orange. When used legally by themselves at night, they tell oncoming drivers that, hey, this car is not moving and should be avoided.
But I can understand your confusion. From what I read, their original function has gone by the wayside pretty much. I don't think I've ever used my parking lights for parking in the 14 years I've owned my current car.
Now when cars stall or we pull off in a rainstorm, we switch on our emergency flashers. Their main purpose of parking lights now seems to be making a moving car more visible from the side as well as to provide some light if a headlight should burn out.
In the meantime, carmakers added a new wrinkle: daytime running lights or DRLs for short. First offered on a handful of 1995 passenger cars, these are low-powered headlights that are lit whenever a vehicle is running.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, DRLs can help prevent daytime head-on and front-corner crashes by making cars more visible. Canada made them mandatory on all cars made after Dec. 1, 1989, and the European Union has required them since February 2011.
They say numerous studies prove their effectiveness. For example, a Canadian study that compared 1990 cars with DRLs to 1989 cars without found an 11 percent drop in multiple-vehicle crashes. The U.S. is less convinced; no state mandates them, and a 2008 federal study found no significant effect on accidents involving cars, pedestrians or bicycles.
Finally, yes, you can be pulled over in Illinois if you are caught driving at night with only your parking lights because they do not provide adequate illumination. In which case, you'll want to leave your parking lights on so nobody runs into you as the officer writes your ticket.
Could you please give me the address for "Wheel of Fortune"? -- Sandy Menke, of Millstadt
Since you neglected to give a reason for your request, let me give you a few possibilities so that you're sure to hit the jackpot.
If you want tickets to attend a taping, you should call 800-482-9840 for both "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy." However, "Wheel" production won't resume until July, so you need not call until June.
To try to become a contestant, you can fill out a form at www.wheeloffortune.com or write Wheel of Fortune Contestant Auditions, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 5300, Culver City, CA 90232. Include your name, phone number and dates you will be in L.A.
Just remember that last year more than a million people requested an audition -- and fewer than 600 appeared on the show. That's less than one-tenth of 1 percent, which is why show producers "strongly discourage you from incurring any expenses whatsoever" in your quest to appear.
If you have yet another purpose for writing, I'd use the Culver City address. For more information, go to the show's website at www.wheelofforunte.com. And, if you want tickets for other shows, try www.tvtix.com/schedule.php.
Oh, baby!: That's probably how former St. Louis Blues announcer Ken Wilson would remind you that "Call the Midwife" will open its second season on KETC-TV Channel 9 Sunday night. This week, Jenny Lee helps a woman in an abusive relationship while Trixie and Sister Evangelina board a ship to care for the captain's daughter. See it at 7 p.m. on Easter -- or 1 a.m. Tuesday if you forget.
What did Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discover on Easter Sunday 1722?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: In March 1992, Duke University's Christian Laettner became the first and only player to start in four consecutive Final Four games. He also holds NCAA tourney career records for most games played (23), points scored (407), free throws attempted (167) and free throws made (142).
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.