It’s the longest day of the year… so don’t forget your headlights!

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The AA is reminding drivers not to neglect to use their lights even through the long days and short nights of midsummer.

“It is a common practice that many drivers only reach for the lights when it becomes difficult for them to see.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan.  “But the lights are also there to make sure that other road users can see you.”

In the summer months, even when the weather is good, cars can be hard for other road users to see. In the twilight period morning and evening it is difficult for the human eye to adjust quickly between the bright sky and the darker ground, and research shows that when cars use Daytime Running Lights (DRL) they are noticed more easily and accidents rates are reduced.

Even when the sun is shining brightly, evidence shows that Daytime Running Lights can be very useful. Strong sunlight means there is a sharp contrast between shaded areas, in the shadows of trees and buildings, and direct sunshine. Using dipped headlights makes your vehicle easier to see for pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes and other traffic.

“The RSA has considered following the example of other countries and making Daytime Running Lights compulsory for all cars in Ireland.” Says Faughnan. “That hasn’t happened yet, but an EU Directive* will make it compulsory for all new vehicles to have DRL fitted as standard from February 2011 onwards. In the meantime, drivers who have DRLs on their cars should use them. For those who don’t, dipped headlights work just as well and should be used almost all the time, even during these long summer days.”

One concern that drivers legitimately have is the effect that using dipped headlights at all times has on fuel consumption, and hence on carbon emissions as well. The side lights on modern cars are much more energy efficient and will make virtually no difference to fuel usage. For older cars there is a slight increase, but it is very slight indeed (perhaps 1.6 per cent) and makes nowhere near as big a difference as factors like air conditioning, correct tyre inflation or driving style.

“We all want to save fuel and money, but you have to balance that against proven safety benefits.” Says Faughnan. “Don’t be reluctant to reach for the switch. The advice for cars is the same as the good advice given to cyclists and pedestrians… be safe, be seen.”

Note

Since the 1970’s DRL has been mandatory in Scandinavian countries and today there are fourteen European countries which have compulsory DRL for vehicles. Given below is a summary of the Member States of the EU where DRL is mandatory, the roads which are affected and the times of the year when DRL is applicable. In Belgium and Spain dipped head lights are compulsory for motorcycles during daytime hours. In Switzerland DRL is recommended. Outside of Europe, DRL is compulsory in Israel during the winter months on rural roads and in Canada new vehicles entering the fleet since 1990 have been required to be equipped with dedicated DRL systems.

EU Member State                                               DRL Where?                        DRL When?

Denmark                                                               All Roads                               All Year
Estonia                                                                  All Roads                               All Year
Finland                                                                  All Roads                               All Year
Italy                                                                         Out of urban roads              All Year
Latvia                                                                     All Roads                               All Year
Lithuania                                                               All Roads                               November – March
Poland                                                                   Out of urban roads              October – February
Sweden                                                                 All Roads                               All Year
Slovakia                                                                All Roads                               October – March
Slovenia                                                                All Roads                               All Year
Czech Republic                                                   All Roads                               All Year
Hungary                                                                Out of urban roads              All Year
Norway                                                                  All Roads                               All Year
Portugal                                                                 Indicated Roads                   All Year