Sunday, 13 October 2013

Daylight Running Lights


Mid-Kent's Group of Advanced Motoring's social media editor Graham Aylard voices his concerns on Daylight Running Lights fitted to modern cars.


Is it me? Has anyone noticed that as the days get shorter and the nights get longer more and more motorists are driving at night with no headlights on?  I'm not so sure it is me. I notice this as I came home from a recent long friday night drive in rush hour on the M25. The traffic was awful. Clacket Lane roadworks adding to the congestion on the southern side of the M25 creating what is often joked about as the biggest car park in the UK.  I counted no less then six drivers in the Kent area alone driving oblivious to the fact that they are hard to see, if not impossible.  As the 'invisible' vehicle drove past, I notice that a couple of them were illuminated from the front - yet nothing from the back. The reason of course is their Daylight Running Lights were on.

With the dashboard and instrument panels lit during the day, I believe drivers are not paying attention to their lighting conditions.

A vehicle showing its Daylight Running Lights.
Some expensive models use an LED that dim when an indication
is used and use a fraction of energy used by traditional bulbs   
Why on earth however has the driver not noticed that he or she is driving around with no headlights on? Well, my theory is with some models of vehicles, the dashboard is illuminated as soon as you start the engine. Not like older vehicles were the dashboard and instruments are lit only when side lights or headlights are switched on. And this is my problem. With the dashboard and instrument panels lit during the day, I believe drivers are not paying attention to their lighting conditions. They can see the speedo, so the light must be on? right? Err.. no! Motorist must look out for the symbol that indicates the headlights are switched on. However, I still have a problem with this. Let me explain.

I drive a 60 plate, Vauxhall Astra, 1.7TD Sports Tourer - or Astra van with windows to the rest of us. It has daylight running lights. My instruments and dashboard is lit nicely and stays lit all the time the engine is running. My rear lights however are not on at all - and that's fine.  But with I switch the side lights on, the daylight running lights switch off, side lights come on, instrument lights stay on and rear lights switch on. Great. But the only indication of this is a small green double light symbol (also known as a 'position lamp') displayed within the rev counter, just under the needle. No problem. But if I switch my headlights on, no other symbol eliminates. (This is true of Vauxhall and some Ford models, where no 'dipped beam' indications are present in the instrument panel) If your in a well lit area, you might be forgiven to think you do not have any headlights on at all. In fact I've had the need to check on a number of occasions by checking the switch itself. It's obvious however in an unlit area. And my point is that small green symbol is not enough when in well lit areas, and leaving the instrument panel lit simply doesn't give a big enough visual clue that maybe your running around at night with only your daylight running lights on. I believe manufactures need to have the instrument panels un-lit when side or headlights are switched off.

And this is the reason why I believe their has been an increase in 'invisible' drivers.
A hint of illumination in the instrument panel of this vehicle while
the engine is running at the Daylight Running Lights are on.

One of my first vehicles was a Volvo 240. It was the first car in the UK to have daylight running lights. It was in fact side lights running switch on all the time - you were unable to switch them off.  But the dash never lit up until side (which then switched the era lights on) or headlights were on. Once again, Volvo proving to be ahead of its time. But why are so many cars fitted with Daylight Running Lights?

Vehicles in Sweden had to drive with lights on, all year round since 1977

In 2008 European legislation ruled that dedicated 'Daylight Running Lights to be fitting to all new cars from February 2011. Trucks and buses followed just over a year later. However, its not a new idea. Vehicles in Sweden had to drive with lights on, all year round since 1977 (hence why the Volvo lights were always on) Iceland, Latvia, Macedonia and Norway since around 1980, Denmark since 1990 and Romania, Slovenia and parts of Portugal since 1998. In fact

by 2006 drivers in 12 european countries were driving with daylight running lights. It was proven to reduce daytime accidents by a study group and the Department of Transport study confirmed this. The study also showed that the benifts out-weighed the possible cost in fuel to keep lights on and the possible chance that these lights could dazzle other motorist or even masked motorcyclist headlights, making them less conspicuous.
However, nothing has be said about the chances of drivers not noticing that they are driving unlit at night. And this is my problem.

A good rule of thumb in wet weather, if your windscreen wipers are switched to constant, switch your headlights on. 

So what can motorist do? Simple really. See and be seen. When light levels drop, even in the day - switch your headlights on. For example, during wet weather conditions, low winter sunlight that my dazzle motorist in the morning an hour or so after sunrise and hour or so before sunset and of course fog and misty conditions. A good rule of thumb in wet weather, if your windscreen wipers are switched to constant, switch your headlights on.

However, for those who are driving vehicles not fitted with day light running lights and still traveling at night with no headlights on… How are earth can you see your speedo?

Words and images: Graham Aylard, Source AA

For tips and discussions on night time driving - the Mid-Kent Group are holding a free evening talk at Grove Green Community Centre, Maidstone on Tuesday 15th October, 8pm. Everyone is welcome and free demonstration and assessment drives are available.  






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