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See and be seen while driving

If you’ve driven after dark or on a wet day, you’ve seen it. A car up ahead with no rear lights illuminated, barely visible on the road.  

As of September 1st 2021, in Canada, all new vehicles must have both headlights and taillights that turn themselves on at dark and dashboards that stay dark if the headlights are off. For obvious reasons, Irish road safety officials are calling for the same vehicle requirements to be put in place in the republic. 

This issue isn’t new. Ever since 2011, DLRs are mandatory for all new cars and small delivery vans in the EU. Trucks and buses were put under the same treatment the following year, in 2012. Vehicles produced before the law was put in place don’t have to be retrofitted. Drivers soon stopped thinking about their lights because they were being taken care of by the vehicles themselves. 

Not only that, but modern dashboard displays are nearly always lit in some way. The intensity of the light can be adjusted to the driver’s preference, but when people drive during the day, their headlights are off and the intensity is at its strongest to make the gauges clearer. 

The idea is that when it gets dark, the very bright light from the instrumentation will remind the driver to turn on the headlights. Many drivers don’t realise this, however, because they just don’t know any better. They treat their cars as appliances, and they assume all the lights are on. After all, they can probably think they see well enough under the streetlights, although they’re next to invisible to others from behind. They are not designed to help drivers see where they are going but are there purely to enable other road users to see the vehicle. This is why they are considerably dimmer than dipped headlights. 

Noel Gibbons, Road Safety Officer, Communications department, Mayo County Council, added: “While daytime running lights are clearly bringing a very valuable safety benefit to Irish roads, it would be good for every driver to take just a few minutes to make sure they know whether the vehicles they drive have them or not. 

And if they do, then check to see if they have them at the rear as well as the front. That way those that don’t have them at the back will be far more likely in poor daylight visibility to switch on their dipped lights to make their vehicle is more easily seen from behind. We strongly urge everyone to carry out this check as those few minutes could make an important road safety difference.” 

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