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Daytime running lights causing confusion, claims RAC

Daytime running lights

Daytime running lights on vehicles may be causing unintended confusion for other drivers, according to research carried out by the RAC.

Designed to make cars more visible to other road users in daylight conditions, they have been required on all new EU cars and small vans since early 2011 to improve road safety.

The lights automatically switch on when the engine is running and switch off when the main headlights are turned on.

They are not designed to help drivers see where they are going, but are there purely to enable other road users to see the vehicle. This is why they are considerably dimmer than dipped headlights.

But while all new vehicles have to have daytime running lights at the front, it is not a requirement to fit them at the rear, yet some manufacturers choose to do so.

It is this issue, says the RAC, that appears to be causing confusion and frustration for road users in dull driving conditions as many drivers don’t turn on their dipped lights or sidelights, perhaps mistakenly thinking that because they have daytime running lights on automatically at the front the same applies to the rear lights.

An RAC Opinion Panel survey of 2,061 motorists found that more than six in 10 (62%) claimed to see other cars and vans driving in dull overcast conditions without any rear lights on, while they noted these vehicles did have lights on at the front.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “This is potentially a very worrying finding as it implies that many motorists are driving without any rear lights believing that because they have running lights that switch on automatically at the front, they are also on at the rear.

“Alternatively, and arguably just as concerning, these drivers could simply have decided the light conditions were not bad enough to merit turning on their dipped lights or sidelights.”

Asked if they knew whether the car they drive most frequently had daytime running lights nearly half (47%) stated that their vehicle did not, 29% said theirs had them at the front only, 14% said they had them at both the front and the rear, and somewhat worryingly, 8% knew they did at the front but were unsure about the rear.

Daytime running lights originate in the Nordic countries where winter light levels are usually low, even in the day.

Sweden was the first country to require them, making them mandatory in October 1977.

Studies into the effectiveness of daytime running lights regarding road safety have had varying results.

An American study from 2008 put the figure at a modest 0.3%, however when the EU investigated the issue in 2003 it suggested there was a likely reduction in multi-party collisions of between 5% and 15%.

While EU law required all cars and small vans produced since 2011 to have daytime running lights, trucks and buses were not included in legislation until August 2012. Vehicles produced before these days do not have to be retrofitted.

Williams continued: “While daytime running lights are clearly bringing a very valuable safety benefit to the UK’s roads, it would be good for every driver to take just a few minutes to make sure they know whether the vehicles they drive have them or not. And if they do, then check to see if they have them at the rear as well as the front.

“That way those that don’t have them at the back will be far more likely in poor daylight visibility to switch on their dipped lights to make their vehicle more easily seen from behind.

“We strongly urge everyone to carry out this check as those few minutes could make an important road safety difference.”

 



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Comments

  • Darren - 03/12/2018 11:10

    I see this a lot, and I've done it myself. I think the confusion isn't so much about the fact that the vehicle has external lights on, but that the dash is lit up without the headlamps being on. So from a drivers perspective, my dashboard is all lit up so my lights are on. Also another issue not raised in this article is that motorcycles and cyclist, who are much more vulnerable road users, are no longer instantly visible during the day or at dusk in a sea of LED daytime running lights whereas they used to be much more obvious seeing their lights filtering through slow moving traffic.

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    • Craig - 13/12/2018 13:47

      I agree with the above comments on DRLs and dash lighting, I have passed several cars recently with DRLs on in the dark and upon glancing in rear view mirror I could see no rear lights on! Also how many headlamps are out on cars on your commute? I saw 5 yesterday morning with passenger side out and 2 with drivers side out on a 4 mile commute! Car manufacturers dont make it easy for the driver to change a bulb as soon as they blow, meaning they have to take to a garage to remove the bumper or headlamp to do this! Too much automation in cars now, auto lights, which dont always turn on in fog/spray, reversing aids etc, my son is learning to drive in a vehicle with an electronic handbrake and hill hold (whatever its called) so how will he get on in a vehicle with a manual handbrake?

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  • David Garrett - 03/12/2018 11:14

    Presumably cars fitted with automatic lights don't experience this issue.

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    • Darren - 04/12/2018 11:54

      Only if you have the lights set to auto. I have auto lights, but had switched them to off one day, so when it was dark the lights didn't come on. I didn't realize straight away as the dashboard lights come on, so from my perspective the lights must have been on, right? I only realized when I was in traffic and noticed that just the DRL were reflecting off the car in front

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  • Keith Lane - 03/12/2018 17:48

    Logic should demand for safety, that by law: daytime running lights must include rear lights on. Clearly an error in the way the regulation was written, but which could be corrected by the stroke of a pen.

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  • Rich - 07/12/2018 13:04

    The running lights introduced in Sweden were both front and rear lights, coming on with the ignition. Some cars with LED DRL have equally bright front lights when set to the sidelight position, as well as rear lights. Cars without LED DRL seem to have a much dimmer traditional front sidelight bulb.

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  • HR - 07/12/2018 13:54

    I have a couple of pickups from the article detail: - "The lights automatically switch on when the engine is running and switch off when the main headlights are turned on". Really? I thought the front DRLs remained on when headlights were turned on? - "considerably dimmer than dipped headlights" - not always! Smaller, yes, but some LEDs are hideously bright - so much so that many models now dim the DRLs to allow front indicators to become visible! Maybe manufacturers should think to themselves, 'if we have to dim the DRLs to show a turn signal, perhaps they are too bright..?' I believe some of the issues in the article stem from: (a) (as Darren has pointed out already) the advent of 'always on' and TFT instrument panels has led to the belief that exterior lights are active when they may not be. Just because the dash is lit-up, does not mean the outside of the car is! (b) cars with automatic headlamp activation is leading many drivers to no longer consider their human input to the need for lights, 'oh, the car handles that for me' - this is not always true, especially in fog and always (it seems) more often with grey / silver / and other 'road-coloured' cars. Perhaps a series of lit dashboard icons (or a plan-view schematic) might help drivers, running in the sequence of: DRL-only / Sidelights / Headlights. Me? No DRLs, so to be visible (and to not be the only one in a chain of DRL-lit cars approaching a side road where a car is waiting to get out and not see me) I now use my headlights all year-round, except on the brightest of summer days...

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  • HR - 07/12/2018 14:07

    I have a couple of pickups from the article detail: - "The lights automatically switch on when the engine is running and switch off when the main headlights are turned on". Really? I thought the front DRLs remained on when headlights were turned on? - "considerably dimmer than dipped headlights" - not always! Smaller, yes, but some LEDs are hideously bright - so much so that many models now dim the DRLs to allow front indicators to become visible! Maybe manufacturers should think to themselves, 'if we have to dim the DRLs to show a turn signal, perhaps they are too bright..?' I believe some of the issues in the article stem from: (a) (as Darren has pointed out already) the advent of 'always on' and TFT instrument panels has led to the belief that exterior lights are active when they may not be. Just because the dash is lit-up, does not mean the outside of the car is! (b) cars with automatic headlamp activation is leading many drivers to no longer consider their human input to the need for lights, 'oh, the car handles that for me' - this is not always true, especially in fog and always (it seems) more often with grey / silver / and other 'road-coloured' cars. Perhaps a series of lit dashboard icons (or a plan-view schematic) might help drivers, running in the sequence of: DRL-only / Sidelights / Headlights. Me? No DRLs, so to be visible (and to not be the only one in a chain of DRL-lit cars approaching a side road where a car is waiting to get out and not see me) I now use my headlights all year-round, except on the brightest of summer days...

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  • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Limited - 13/12/2018 11:42

    As Darren highlights, the main issue in my opinion is that the inside of the car tells the driver one thing, but the opposite it true. The culprit's are a) the instrument display for always being lit, and b) the driver for not engaging their brain before 1st gear. I am simply surprised that it hasn't been thought of as a problem before now.

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