Daytime Running Lights

One of the biggest changes on the road for me, after moving from Canada to the US, has been the lack of daytime runing lights (DRL). In Canada and much of Europe, all vehicles are required by law to have functioning daytime running lights, whereas in the US they are merely permitted.

For those who don’t know, daytime running lights are clear or amber lights on a vehicle that are on whenever that vehicle is moving, regardless of time of day.

As a driver, I firmly believe that daytime running lights should be mandated in the US, and all countries around the world. The few possible negative effects are easily avoided, while the benefits are numerous and improve road safety for everyone.

To start, let’s look at headlights, which are better understood. Headlights serve two purposes at night:

  1. Illuminate the road ahead (and to the side to a small degree)
  2. Make your vehicle visible to others

It is the second purpose that is most frequently overlooked, and where DRL shine (pun intended). In any condition where road illumination isn’t necessary but visibility is restricted, DRL are always on, eliminating user error. These situations include rain, dawn, dusk, fog, dust and more.

Daytime running lights also provide guaranteed lighting at night, should someone forget to turn their headlights on. While automatic headlights solve this issue, many vehicles are still sold without. Multiple times since being in the US I have come close to turning in front of a car that didn’t have their headlights on at night, which prevented me from seeing them until they were much closer.

The primary arguments against daytime running lights revolve around them being too bright. If they are too bright they can cause glare and/or obscure a vehicle’s turn signals. These are valid concerns, but are easily remedied: mandate that DRL run at a lower intensity than regular headlights, which is exactly what Canada has done.

The National Highway and Traffice Safety Association (NHTSA) has performed multiple studies over the years showing no or minimal safety benefits from having daytime running lights. As a driver, I know the safety benefits I have seen on the road, as well as the level of comfort daytime running lights provide, knowing that I can see other cars on the road.