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Day lamps in the spotlight

QUESTION: I notice more vehicles being operated without daytime running lights.


I notice more vehicles being operated without daytime running lights. In our frequent rain and fog and under low light conditions such as those at dusk or dawn, I have had close calls due to the difficulty of seeing a vehicle approaching me. What is the law, what are police doing to reduce this hazard, and why do I sometimes observe police vehicles being operated without daytime running lights?

Al Graham North Vancouver

Dear Mr. Graham:

Thank you for your question.

For those readers who may not be aware, daytime running lamps are lights at the front of a vehicle that are meant to improve the vehicle's visibility when viewed from the front in daylight.

Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act contains a set of regulations that govern the types of lights required on Canadian motor vehicles. Section 44 of the regulations requires every Canadian passenger car, multi-purpose passenger vehicle, truck, bus and three-wheeled vehicle made or imported after Jan. 1, 1990 to be equipped with two DRLs that are white or yellow in colour. The B.C. Motor Vehicle Act Regulations allow these DRLs to be illuminated but do not require it. There exists no provision in the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act under which police can ticket someone for failing to have DRLs.

In numerous worldwide studies, these lights have been proven to enhance road safety only marginally. They are of greatest proven benefit in Scandinavian countries, where their positive effects are roughly three times those observed elsewhere. This is because ambient light levels during winter in northern countries are generally low even during the day, meaning DRLs do more enhance a vehicle's visibility. Scandinavian countries were among the first to mandate their use.

Interestingly, the United States does not have laws that require newly manufactured or imported vehicles to have them.

These lamps come with a risk. Police officers commonly find people driving at night with only their DRLs activated. Presumably, these drivers mistake the lights they see at the front of their vehicles for their headlights and fail to turn the switch to activate their headlights. In many cases, DRLs are somewhat dimmer than headlights, and without headlights properly activated, most vehicles do not display any tail lights. This is a dangerous situation that has police officers regularly ticketing drivers for failing to correctly display their lights.

As for police cars, our vehicles have a DRL kill switch for those times when we need to remain difficult to spot, for example, when sneaking up on a house at night during a dangerous situation.

Although officers are not required to activate their DRLs, they are encouraged to do so.

Sgt. Peter DeVries North Vancouver RCMP

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