When safety improvements can expose us to danger

I appreciate advances in all types of safety (especially anything to do with vehicles – as it’s close to my heart).

Recently, there has been a move from the mainstream car manufacturers to enter into a world, previously the preserve of the Swedish.

I am talking about daytime running lights. (Since Feb 2011 for cars and vans and August 2012 for trucks and buses any models that go through the European whole vehicle type approval process after that date must have them fitted)*

Now whether this change was borne from concerns over our safety or more that it looked stylish and funky (with the recent emergence of LED lighting) I am unsure.

Regardless of their true intentions, it will not surprise anyone to learn that its reason for being, has been firmly badged as an improvement towards road safety.

Whilst I agree in principle that making us as visible as we can to other road users is of benefit and worthwhile. It cannot be at the risk of exposing us to new dangers.

Therein lies the rub, as this recent phenomena has inadvertently, exposed some drivers to greater risk.

Acknowledging that some drivers do not take advantage of the ‘auto light’ function and, that some marques have not yet made this available across the range.  It is apparent that some manufacturers have taken the decision, (on some, or all models) that an additional ‘benefit’ of daytime running lights is to also illuminate the instrument cluster.

“So what is the issue with that” you ask.

Well you may have noticed some cars now driving during hours of darkness with no rear tail lights illuminated.

This is a result of two factors –

  1. As daytime running lights are brighter than standard (To enable you to be seen during the day) they afford the driver forward illumination during the darker hours.
  2. The fact that the instrument cluster is also lit, creates the impression that we have our lights on, when the truth is, we don’t.

As I’m sure you will know – without the auto function engaged, rear lights do not illuminate unless the light switch is actually turned on.

Now this may mean, that only a handful of people are potentially exposing themselves or others to risk.

But any number is too big a number when the solution is a simple one.

I would suggest therefore, in my humble opinion, that either of the following would rectify this issue:

  1. Disable the instrument cluster from illuminating when only running lights are on.
  2. Ensure that ‘daytime running lights’ include tail lights. (After all, if this is a safety measure, surely being seen from behind is as important as being seen from the front)?

* Source – http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/safety/daytime-running-lights.html


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