RoadSafe supports new headlight legislation

09.30 | 9 February 2011 | | 4 comments

RoadSafe has come out in support of EU legislation that requires all new types of passenger cars and delivery vans to be equipped with daytime running lights (DRL).

Despite campaigns against them, DRL are designed to improve road safety by making it easier to spot oncoming traffic. They switch on automatically when the engine starts and turn off when the engine stops or the headlamps are turned on.

In a statement the European Commission said: “According to recent research on DRL, road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, can detect vehicles equipped with DRL more clearly and sooner than those equipped with dipped beam headlights.”

RoadSafe says that the legislation is welcome, and evidence, including that from the DfT and European Transport Safety Council, shows that DRL are a benefit.

But DRL are 50% brighter than standard dipped headlights and motorcycle and bicycle action groups are concerned that the proliferation of lit traffic streams will make less visible cyclists and motorcyclists more vulnerable.

Adrian Walsh, RoadSafe director, says: “We welcome the safety improvements that xenon and DRL bring. Legislation takes into account evidence from extensive research, which shows xenon and bi-xenon headlamps, and DRL improve safety.

“However, some of the valid concerns for other road users cannot be ignored. Government needs to respond by addressing these. Changes to the MOT are almost certainly necessary to ensure all types of lights are properly assessed.”

Click here to read the RoadSafe report in full.

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    Something that doesn’t seem to have been considered at all is day running lights at night is the lack of taillights on the system.
    In the day these so called Day Running Lights are great, but if you are one of the people who still forget to turn your lights on (in a car without automatic lights) you are a higher risk as your rear end isn’t lit up at all. On numerous occasions on motorways, I have seen cars at the last minute with no taillight on. It is because the bright LED’s make some drivers think it’s their headlights, and also most cars have permanent illuminated dashboards. So the driver can see ahead, and the controls perfectly and are totally unaware of an unlit back end. Am I the only person who is concerned about this?

    2 options are
    1) Have taillights wired into the DRL’s (an obvious fix. DUH!) Like in Sweden
    2) Do away with DRL’s and just make headlights come on permanently like in Eastern Europe.

    They’re the same brightness, or brighter in some instances as LED DRL’s don’t have a beam direction. So why complicate cars with extra lighting systems anyway?


    Ben from Telford, Kingston, Swindon & Bristol
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    DRLs may make moving motor vehicles more obvious. As a road user, I can see those with DRLs coming a long way off. But they have a number of serious consequences that increase the risks in other circumstances, and it appears to confer more of the practical responsibility for avoiding a collision between, say, a car and a cyclist, onto the latter.

    The inevitable over-reliance on spotting hazards by looking for DRLs will mean that some hazards are missed, notably most of the more vulnerable road users.

    As DRLs are typically LEDs, one differentiator between most cyclists and motor vehicles is being eroded. As a cyclist, I already spend a lot of money on lamps and hi-viz to be seen. Not all cyclists do, but even my efforts are being thwarted by DRLs and the increasing use of Xenon bulbs (said to be 300% brighter than traditional lamps). As a driver (without DRLs but with bright lamps), I have now lost the means to have a lower power lamp without resorting to the parking lights.

    In my experience, misuse of lamps is already widespread, with fog lamps used as a sporty expression in conjunction with headlamps in clear conditions. A combination of fog-, xenon head- and DRL- lamps makes a car several times brighter than a standard, lawfully driven car of yore. Xenon lamps are more likely to cause dazzle and flash distractions. This is not safety, this is simply competitive light escalation.

    The linked DfT information sheet shows no evidence of how a motor vehicle’s DRLs contribute to the safety of pedestrians or cyclists, and so its claim in the 3rd paragraph should be dismissed.

    The European ETSC document also linked says that a study showed no evidence of detrimental effects on powered two-wheelers. It said that it was ASSUMED (emphasis added) that diminished perception of motorcyclists by others would be offset by motorcyclists’ increased perception of cars. This raises many concerns:
    – is it right to introduce an added risk simply on the basis that it is offset by a balancing risk reduction;
    – it transfers the responsibility for perceiving a risk to the person who is more vulnerable;
    – it is an assumption that the two risks are in equilibrium.
    I would suggest that most motorcyclists are highly aware of the motor vehicles around them, but the reverse cannot be said to be true. Moreover, as the use of DRLs becomes more common, the experience of those without DRLs being overlooked will increase.

    When I see caveats about the valid concerns of other road uses being relegated to little more than a PS, I am concerned about the attitude of a safety organisation. DRLs and xenon lamps may improve safety in certain circumstances, but for most lit, [sub-]urban driving they are overkill (with 3rd-syllable emphasis).


    Jonathan, Cheshire
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    Got to agree with you Martin, wholeheartedly.


    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    Regarding xenon lights, several years ago when xenon car lights were first appearing (mainly on northern european cars at the time), I remember reading that the motoring industry was looking at the possibility of introducing xenon lights that could be ‘dimmed’ whilst being used in urban areas (or would dim automatically when street lighting was good)as they recognised the fact that these new lights were unnecessarily bright, particularly for urban use where street lighting has improved over the years. However, they seemed not to have progressed the dimming idea and, recognising the fact that some drivers feel more important if driving a vehicle with spotlights for headlights, went on to sell them to us anyway under the banner of road safety. I agree that along unlit country lanes brighter headlights do, of course, aid road safety, but along well lit urban roads these over bright, piercing and often dazzling lights continue to irritate road users and do not, I think, aid road safety in these conditions. To make matters worse, practically any car can now have its original lights replaced with much brighter ones. The ‘bling’ factor.


    Martin Andrews, Wandsworth
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