Fleets will face increasing fuel bills and vehicle emissions from 2012, but possibly fewer crashes, after the government and a number of safety organisations lost their battle to stop daytime running lights becoming compulsory on all new vehicles.
Although daytime running lights (DRL) seem a safety benefit, giving motorists higher visibility, many road safety groups, including RoSPA, argue that motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians will be in more danger as the glare could be a distraction, and make non-DRL users less visible.
However, using headlights at all times could increase fuel usage by up to 1.5%, a Department for Transport report has claimed.
Speaking in the House of Commons, transport minister, Jim Fitzpatrick said: “The UK has been successful in arguing against the introduction of mandatory use of dipped headlamps during daylight hours by drivers of existing vehicles.
"This outcome has been welcomed by motorcycle user groups.
“However, from early 2011, all new types of passenger cars and light vans will have to be fitted with dedicated daytime running lamps in accordance with the relevant European directive.
"By summer 2012 all new vehicle types will have to be so fitted.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety for RoSPA said: “We don’t think that the evidence justifies daytime running lights on vehicles in the UK.
"Our main concern is that fitting them to all vehicles will remove the relatively high visibility that motorcyclists currently enjoy.”
A review in 2006 by the Department for Transport (DfT) of the reports from the European Commission on DRL questioned the level of claimed accident reduction, although agreed there would be some improvement.
“There is substantial evidence that the mandatory use of DRL would provide a net accident reduction,” said the review.
“However, the evidence concerning the magnitude of the effect and particularly the relationship with accident severity is considerably weaker.”
The DFT said the Commission’s assumption of a 15% improvement on fatal accidents was “weak” and that reduction of between 3.9% and 5.9% was more realistic.
The report’s authors added that there would be an increase of between 0.5% and 1.5% in fuels use and carbon dioxide emissions.