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Daytime Running Lights – They’re Not Your Driving Lights

Have you ever been driving at night – or dusk – and you approach a car without their lights on?! In truth, their lights might not actually be off. Their ‘daytime running lights’ are on and they don’t realize that their tail lights are NOT on. 
This is becoming more and more common, and is particularly frequent in the city where powerful street lights illuminate the roads, taking attention away from the fact that these people are driving without tail lights. They have no idea that they are creating an extremely dangerous situation behind them.
 
Keep Calm and Lights On
 

Driver Complacency and Daytime Running Lights (DRL)

The reason for these cars driving without tail lights is because newer vehicles are equipped with Daytime Running Lights. DRL’s are a safety feature built in to all Canadian cars built after 1990. DRL’s illuminate the dash and automatically turns on the front lights while the vehicle is running.
 
Try it out! Turn on your car. Leave it in park and take a walk around your vehicle. You’ll notice some minor front lights which could be your headlights, or some secondary lights. Around the back? Yep, no lights.
 
Here are a couple of real examples of how this will look while driving. See if you can spot the ‘No Lights’ cars. The video ads light; it’s a fair bit darker for pedestrians and drivers.
 

Traffic Example #1

In this clip a car driving too fast hits their brakes, then the rear of the vehicle goes dark as they carry on.

Traffic Example #2

Here’s another example of a situation where a fast moving vehicle approaches another car turning left in front of them. It’s possible their ‘running’ lights (if they even have lights on) are dimmer than their properly switched headlights.
 
The issue is that since this feature is automatic, drivers wrongly assume that their ‘driving’ lights are on, when they aren’t. The DRL only turns on the headlights to provide additional safety for oncoming traffic. They don’t turn on the tail lights and quite often DRL beams are lower intensity than Driving Light beams, so you’re less illuminated to oncoming traffic.
 

Turn your lights on!

 
DRL’s aren’t your running lights. The daytime running light circuit runs at a lower power output and so the emitted light is even less than your regular low beams. As explained earlier, your DRL’s don’t turn on your tail lights which is incredibly dangerous at dusk and in darkness. Watch any line of cars for long enough and you’ll see some of these ‘phantom cars’ out there among us. Mind you, the brake lights will work, so don’t mistake those for tail running-lights.
 
Phantom Cars (yep, they have a name) are actually becoming a significant safety issue on Canadian roads. In this article, CBC reports that Transport Canada receives numerous complaints about drivers who fail to turn on their lights, assuming that their DRLs are doing the trick; which they’re not.
 
Transport Canada says many Canadians have written to the department warning about the dangers of ‘phantom cars’. These are vehicles that travel in the dark without their tail lights illuminated, making them hard to spot.
 
DRL’s save lives, full stop. DRLs in vehicles has been a legal requirement since 1989, and since then two-vehicle crashes have been reduced by between 5.3 per cent and 15 percent. This is according to three Canadian studies from the 1990s, two of them by Transport Canada. 
 
 
Section 108 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) requires that all vehicles manufactured after 1989, be equipped with front daytime running lights (DRL). These lamps must be automatically activated when the vehicle is in operation under daylight conditions.
 
The article goes on to state that vehicles without lights dramatically shorten the reaction time of other vehicles, even in the daytime. In fog, if you’re unlucky enough to be following a phantom car, you won’t see them until they hit their brakes which could be too late. In New Brunswick, lights are mandatory and if you’re caught driving without your low beams on, you could face a $172 fine.
 
Car traffic at dusk
 
Spread the word and please turn on your lights; even during the day! Don’t rely on your DRLs to light up the road because they’re lower power and you’re not helping the drivers behind you.
 
Drive safe.
 
 
 
 

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