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Daytime Running Lights – A Bright Idea?

Car manufacturers are fond of their acronyms – even the most basic of cars on the market these days sports ABS, AC and quite possibly EBD..

The majority of the sytems or features to which this cacophony of capital letters refer evolve as the result of legislation – airbags (or SRS in Acrospeak) being pretty much a standard legal fitment to cars and vans these days for example – and on the whole are accepted by the motoring public – enthusiast or not – as A Good Thing, so long, in the eyes of the aforementioned keener driver at least, they don’t impinge on the act of driving.

Indeed, it’s hard to remember a time when the wearing of seatbelts wasn’t a compulsory part of the whole driving experience and one would probably have to go to some lengths to track down a hardcore non-wearer these days as the vast majority of drivers and passengers quite rightly understand the benefits of buckling up.

I think it is safe to say then that we here at Motortalk Towers are keen proponents of non-invasive safety ideas but certainly do not adhere to the nannying approach which some would have us follow (I’m thinking here of the ever-threatened speed limiters which groups such as Brake believe all cars should be fitted) and eye with interest any new ideas which may find their way onto the roads in the name of ‘safety’.

Which brings me onto our Acronym Of The Day:


For those not familiar with this latest collection of capitals, DRL stands for ‘Daytime Running Lights’ and while not by any means a new idea, they are seemingly becoming a more regular sight on our roads.

Here in the UK we are probably pretty familiar with Volvos and Saabs driving around with their sidelights & more recently headlights on during the day.

This is as a result of the law in Scandinavian countries requiring all cars to display their lights as soon as the engine is running – a sensible idea on the face of it given the short days and limited amount of ambient light available for a good part of the year at such relative proximity to the Arctic Circle.

Other countries are following suit too – since as long ago as 1990 Canada has required all vehicles registered for use on her roads to feature DRLs and more recently Italy, Hungary and the majority of the European Union’s recently-admitted former Eastern Bloc countries have passed legislation requiring their use.

Whilst it is not yet a UK or even EU-wide law that cars have their lights on during the day, it would seem that the feature is likely to become a standard fixture on new cars as they are replaced or even facelifted by the manufacturers as the economies of scale make it simpler to include the functionality on all cars built for that particular market.

And this then, coupled with the explosion in popularity of LED lighting in the automotive world, is why we are seeing more and more cars driving around with what appear to be very bright sidelights during daylight hours – ostensibly glowing as a warning to other road users and pedestrians that the vehicle has its engine running and is thus presenting a potential hazard, but also increasingly I suspect as automotive jewellery; the equivalent of motoring ‘bling’.

Probably the most dedicated follower of this particular fashion is Audi whose offerings from A3 right up to the range-topping R8 feature some form of DRLs – whether it be the humble incandescent filament on the family A4 or, more overtly, the oh so glitzy swoop of light-emitting diodes which hug the headlights on the aforementioned R8 & are most certainly attention-grabbers, which, ultimately I suppose is the point..

Opinion is seemingly divided on DRLs – whether as safety equipment or as sparkly addenda – with some seeing them as nothing more than a legitimate way for the fog-light brigade to tool around with the equivalent of a tackily-festooned Christmas tree on the front of their cars (aftermarket LED kits are already on sale in Halfords – expect to see them hastily attached to a Saxo near you sometime very soon) whilst others think that they are a waste of energy and only serve to increase fuel consumption at a time when filling up is already almost prohibitively expensive.

Motorcyclists particularly are concerned about the increasing use of these lights, believing that their own particular safety margin of riding with headlights on in daytime will be negated as they disappear into the glare of light from every other road user.

Those on the pro side say though that having some form of light showing at the front of the car can only be a good thing and point to studies which show that accidents in countries where DRLs have been used for some time are reduced – particularly in territories such as Scandinavia where daylight is at more of a premium.

Whatever your view though, it seems that manufacturers are keen to equip their designs with the latest must-have technology and with everyone from Audi through to Vauxhall fitting DRLs to their cars, whether they be there purely for safety reasons or increasingly as aesthetic features with which designers can enhance the ‘face’ of their brand it seems that daytime running lights have a bright future..

..sorry, couldn’t resist..

Dave Wakefield.

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