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brake-light-333979_1280Technology and regulations have mostly a positive effect with regards to safety on the roads. But that’s not always the case.

Let’s wind the clock back to 1988 and imagine you’re driving a vehicle as the sun sets. If you’re a safety conscious driver you’d turn your lights on at dusk. Dusk and dawn are the times when the angle of light combined with lower visibility makes it difficult to discern objects from shadows. But even if you’re oblivious to that knowledge, it won’t take long for you to realize that it’s getting harder for you to see the road. Even city drivers under the umbrella of street lighting would start to notice the lack of illumination on their dash gauges. At that point, you wouldn’t need to be a Nobel laureate to know you need to turn on your headlights. Oh…and you mustn’t forget the tail lights as well.

What?

Oh, right… taillights automatically come on with the headlight switch. Duh.

But what if your vehicle was equipped with DRL (Daytime Running Lights)? No problem, right? Since you would obviously notice the dash lights weren’t on as the light got lower and flick the switch.  This has been more or less the scenario in Canada since 1989. Back then, it became federal law that all new vehicles sold in (or imported into) Canada and built after December 1, 1989, be fitted with DRL and must be active at all times while the vehicle ignition is on. Many drivers then allowed themselves to become complacent by relying on the lack of dash lighting to remind them to turn their headlights on at night. But recently, more and more vehicles either come with backlit dash gauges, or they are installed as after-market parts. So now what? Drivers can see ahead, and there’s no indication by the lack of dash lighting that they are invisible to everyone behind them. Now we have a problem. A much bigger problem than most people seem to realize.

Granted, some vehicles with DRL have only the front turn indicators lit and others may only supply the headlights with as little as 50% voltage under daylight ‘switch off’ conditions. Drivers of these vehicles may still notice the need for headlights as the ambient light fades. Also, some manufacturers now use photo-sensors in addition to DRL to automatically turn all the lights on when the ambient light reaches a certain level. But the fact remains that there are some vehicles on the road today, and more to come I suspect, which trick the driver into a false sense of visibility.

There is an easy solution to this problem, and that is to drive with your headlights on at all times. Just as I hope that wearing your seatbelt has become an automatic procedure for driving (I feel naked without mine), I would like all of us to get in the habit of driving with the lights on. I’m certain there are two arguments in opposition to this; First, forgetting about the lights and coming back to a dead car battery. And secondly, additional ‘on time’ requires more frequent bulb replacements. Well, most vehicles will chime if the lights are left on as you remove your key and open the door. A handy reminder to save your battery. As for wear and tear on bulb filaments, I think we can all agree that the cost of replacing headlights is much less than the cost of a collision.