Tim Schewe

Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Use all your lights!

Driving instructor suggested to develop habit of turning all lights on when you start vehicle

By Tim Schewe

One DriveSmartBC follower shares that one of their pet peeves is drivers who do not have lights on during the day, particularly when it is foggy, raining very hard, or there is a very dark overcast. On their last trip they saw many vehicles with no tail lights on and it was very dark out because of low, thick clouds and rain.

Daytime running lamps (DRLs) were legislated to reduce head on collisions by making vehicles approaching each other more conspicuous. There was no need to have rear lamps on to accomplish this, so the federal standards did not mandate that they had to turn on with the daytime running lights. Some manufacturers chose to turn them on as part of the daytime running light system and some chose not to. It was up to the buyer to choose the system they wanted as part of their vehicle purchase.

Why didn’t vehicle manufacturers turn on all the lights instead of just some of the lights?

Engineers decided that when the DRLs were on, the dash lights should come on too. Many experienced drivers associate a lit dash with all of the vehicle’s lights being on, so the visual cue we’ve learned to rely on to remind us to turn on all of our lights now delivers a false sense of safety.

The lack of tail lights left them dangerously unprotected.

It’s been more than 20 years, but DRL operation is finally being changed to prevent these phantom vehicles.

Yes, there is a cost to this benefit in terms of extra use of the lamps and increased fuel consumption. Transport Canada estimates this to be between $3 and $15 per year for most low intensity light systems or up to $40 per year low beam headlight systems. I suspect that most people waste more than this each year by idling their vehicles when there is no need.

Since you cannot disable daytime running lights, watching your idle time may offset your contribution to greenhouse gases.

Of course when weather conditions are poor, the lights on our vehicles help us see and be seen by other drivers. It is important to turn them all on when needed and maintain them so that they function properly. If the daytime running light system doesn’t turn all lights on automatically, you must be alert to the need and do it yourself.

Otherwise, all of your vehicle’s lights must be lit from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.

One driving instructor suggested to me that you should simply develop the habit of turning all of the lights on when you start your vehicle and turn them all off at the end of your trip. This will stop you from becoming a phantom vehicle unintentionally.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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