Monday, April 16, 2012

Daytime running lights - yet another problem.

If you've read my blog for any length of time you'll know one of my biggest pet hates on modern cars is daytime running lights - DRLs. They're mandated in Canada and parts of the US, and now Europe is getting in on the action. The argument used is that they make cars more visible in the daytime and thus reduce accident rates, but this has proven to be untrue both through statistical analysis and actual accident reporting. In the case of motorbikes it actually is true but that's because bikes are smaller and easily overlooked by car drivers, and having a headlight on helps draw attention to them. For cars, it makes no difference. In fact, for road users in general, DRLs make driving more dangerous. For motorbikes, it has made them invisible again because now motorbike headlights are lost in a sea of car headlights. For other road users, we now all have to put up with badly aligned headlights shining into our eyes at all times of day and night, and whilst it's not as intrusive in the daytime, it certainly is unnecessary. But the real gotcha here is, once again, what it does to the drivers themselves. Once people get used to DRLs being on all the time, they naturally assume that when the lights are on, the lights are on. But they're not - not all of them. Proper DRLs are what we used to call parking lights, or sidelights - low wattage bulbs designed to help be seen, rather than to see by. Fake DRLs (like what you'll find on so many cars now) are simply the low-beam main headlights being forced on. In all cases though, DRLs do NOT turn on any other lights. Now picture the scenario when you hit bad weather, especially on a motorway. All the drones see the poor visibility but think "I'm fine - my daytime running lights are on". Great - but those are low-wattage lights at the front, and importantly - nothing at the rear, meaning essentially that their cars are now completely invisible in the sort of heavy spray you get in rain on a motorway. And because everyone's been fooled into thinking that their lights are on, the very last thing on their mind is to actually turn their lights on using the controls provided for them in their cars. The same is true for foggy conditions, and dusk and dawn conditions. Millions of cars, driving around basically completely unlit because their drivers have been lulled into a false sense of security by the lunacy of daytime running lights.
Ban them. Ban them now. Or if they can't be banned, do what I did and hack your car to turn them off. In my car, when my light switch is in the 'off' position, it now actually means my lights are off. Instead of partly on.
"But Chris", I can hear you typing, "that's why we have auto lights!"
Don't get me going on auto lights again. I've already blogged about that particular issue before. If you're truly incapable of doing something as simple as turning the lights on when the conditions demand it, you really have no place driving a car.


Tarhim said...

To my understanding in Europe "proper" DRLs are not parking lights, but something similar and they can be quite horrible, especially aftermarked LED ones. However, I always rather liked enforcemenent of low-beams 24/7. Why? Because it was solution to the problems of all the idiots in poor visibility conditions going dark because "well, I can see just fine, so no need to turn lights on". DRLs, especially the kind that does not bring taillights on, are countereffective in that regard.

Chris said...

Tarhim - that's my point. No DRLs bring on any lights at the back of the car. Only at the front.

Silas said...

A big problem with headlights-as-DRLs in the US is the abysmal US headlamp regulations, which fail to take account of any significant developments since the 1940s. It was 1984 before they even allowed replaceable bulbs, and they STILL don't mandate anything like proper aim or a reasonable cutoff. American headlamps are crap, and for some makes there's actually a thriving market in bringing in technically illegal European headlamps because they put more light on the road, where it's needed, while putting less light in the eyes of other drivers, where it's a menace. Canada allows the ECE-compliant lamps as an option. The US is the last country on the planet to refuse to allow you to not blind oncoming drivers.

Anonymous said...

Silas, THERE ARE REGULATIONS for head light aim and strengh. Unfortunately, according to an officier- "we do not have the equipment to do the test". Also HIGHBEAMS are required to be dimmed within 500 feet of another vehicle, from what I have read on state vehicle codes( this also applies to DRIVING LIGHT- the bumper lights). Yes , I am 100% opposed to daytme running lights, and refuse to shop Walmart, GM, any company that uses DRLs. So I drive a Ford, Ride a 1979 Motorcycle ( no DRLs- and People seem to see me , I have been riding without lights on MC for over 15 years). If enough people stand up to the abuse of DRLs, law enforcement will be forced to do something. Thank you, for this Chris.

Wayne Parker said...

Hey, I am getting into car detailing, and customization, but I can't find good daytime running lights. Can anyone suggest some good ones? Thanks!