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.”
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