Drivers Are Confused By Daytime Running Lights
Daytime running lights are poorly understood and are confusing motorists in the UK, according to to new research conducted by the RAC. The lights, which are designed to increase a car’s visibility in daylight conditions, were made mandatory for all cars and vans in the EU from 2011 in order to improve safety on member states’ roads.
The lights automatically switch on when the engine is started and switch off when the main headlights are activated. Their function isn’t to increase road visibility for drivers, but instead is meant to help other vehicles see the car; which is why the lights are relatively dim. Whilst they haven’t been mandatory for long in automotive terms, they have a long history. They were made mandatory in Sweden, for instance, back in the 70s due to the country’s long winters and poor daylight visibility.
Car manufacturers are required to install daytime running lights at the front of their vehicles but not at the back. Despite this, many elect to install them at the rears of their models, too. The RAC believes that it’s this trend that’s causing so much confusion for motorists as they believe, incorrectly, that they don’t need to turn on sidelights or dipped lights; instead assuming that daytime running lights are automatically activating at the rear of the vehicle when the engine is started. In a survey of over 2,000 drivers, the RAC discovered that one in ten drivers had come across vehicles that lacked rear lights in dim conditions but did have lights on at the front. The survey also revealed that 47% of the drivers stated that their cars most frequently have daytime lights running and 14% said they had them at the front and rear of their vehicles.
Pete Williams, a safety spokesman for the RAC, 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.” He added, “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.”
The effectiveness of daytime running lights is still routinely debated, with research and studies yielding differing results. A study conducted in Europe in 2003 suggested that they’d lead to collisions being reduced between 5% and 15%. However, a more recent study conducted in America suggested only a 0.3% reduction. Williams, however, doesn’t doubt their effectiveness but instead believes drivers need to take more time to understand their vehicles. He said, “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.”
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