Use ALL Your Lights!

image of car with lights onOne DriveSmartBC follower shares that one of their pet peeves is drivers who do not have lights on during the day, particularly when it is foggy, raining very hard, or there is a very dark overcast. On their last trip they saw many vehicles with no tail lights on and it was very dark out because of low, thick clouds and rain.

Why Do We Have Daytime Running Lights?

Daytime running lamps (DRLs) were legislated to reduce head on collisions by making vehicles approaching each other more conspicuous. There was no need to have rear lamps on to accomplish this, so the federal standards did not mandate that they had to turn on with the daytime running lights. Some manufacturers chose to turn them on as part of the daytime running light system and some chose not to. It was up to the buyer to choose the system they wanted as part of their vehicle purchase.

DRL System Design

Why didn't vehicle manufacturers turn on all the lights instead of just some of the lights?

Engineers decided that when the DRLs were on, the dash lights should come on too. Many experienced drivers associate a lit dash with all of the vehicle's lights being on, so the visual cue we've learned to rely on to remind us to turn on all of our lights now delivers a false sense of safety.

The lack of tail lights left them dangerously unprotected.

Corrections Can Take Forever

It's been over 20 years, but DRL operation is finally being changed to prevent these phantom vehicles.

The Energy Costs

Yes, there is a cost to this benefit in terms of extra use of the lamps and increased fuel consumption. Transport Canada estimates this to be between $3 and $15 per year for most low intensity light systems or up to $40 per year low beam headlight systems. I suspect that most people waste more than this each year by idling their vehicles when there is no need.

Since you cannot disable daytime running lights watching your idle time may offset your contribution to greenhouse gases.

When to Use ALL of Your Lights

Of course when weather conditions are poor, the lights on our vehicles help us see and be seen by other drivers. It is important to turn them all on when needed and maintain them so that they function properly. If the daytime running light system doesn't turn all lights on automatically, you must be alert to the need and do it yourself.

Otherwise, all of your vehicle's lights must be lit from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.

Driving Instructor Suggestion

One driving instructor suggested to me that you should simply develop the habit of turning all of the lights on when you start your vehicle and turn them all off at the end of your trip. This will stop you from becoming a phantom vehicle unintentionally.

Share This Article

I am a firm believer in DRL but I never see any enforcement of this law. From my knowledge all vehicles produced for sale in Canada after 1990 had to have DRL installed. I have asked highway police officers and the B.C. Transportation division inspectors why they do not enforce this law. One police officer told me that although having the lights installed is a requirement for vehicles sold in Canada, there is no law saying they have to be operational. Is this true?

I have stopped and talked to the staff manning a major commercial vehicle inspection blitz and watched as truck after truck was past without having operational DRL. To me this defies common sense.

I wear my seat belt at all times but to me this is just to protect me if I have an accident. Daytime running lights just may prevent that accident from happening in the first place. Yet I see literally thousand of vehicles running around either with them disconnected or they have been allowed to burn out. I even see Police cars being driven on the highway and city streets with these lights de-activated. I know that the Police did get special permission to have a switch to turn them off but from what I have learned this is only for use during surveillance duty. They are never to be turned off when operating on the highway.

B.C. has a very high rate of seat belt use, so would the time the officers spend checking for seat belts be better used to check on daytime running lights? I would think that all traffic officers would have to know the year and make of car by looking at them so it should be no difficulty to pick out the offending vehicles.

About 5 years back I saw a report where DRL were credited with reducing the number of kids being hit by cars by darting out into the road. The report went on to say the only reason they could contribute this to is the kids must be able to spot the lights of the car better. Unfortunately I failed to keep the article and have never been able to find it again. Have you ever heard of this? But if this is true is it not a good reason to put more enforcement into making sure everyone has there lights operational?

I agree Kids see us better,,so does everyone else,cars,trucks,bikes and those little critters like Moose and deer ect.....

If the Law told you that you had to wear safety glasses if you were going to be in a gunfight,,and you knew about bullet proof vests and other bullet proof clothing,,,,WELL WOULD YOU JUST WEAR THE SAFETY GLASSES???

If you know,,,and you DO know ALL LIGHTS ON 24/7 is just Way Safer,,,,Then the Question here was WHAT?????


I have observed that in the Learn to Drive Smart book, it indicates that your headlights should be used "30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise". Why wouldn't one turn them on AT sunset, and AT sunrise?? Wouldn't it be dark at sunset (at which time I would already have my lights on) as well as dark before sunrise (so...I would leave my lights on until sunrise)? I know that the quoted statement is correct according to Drive Smart BC, but I just don't understand why.

You have total control over your light switch. Turn it on whenever you want to, even leaving your lights on whenever you drive.

There is no rule about when you can't have your low beam headlights on, just the minimum for when you must have them on in order to see and be seen.

For sure, the legal requirements under the MVA & Regs are minimal - designed to make it a necessity for drivers to turn on their lights in accordance with the anticipated ambient lighting. So obviously, there's going to be a significant difference on June 21 than on December 21.

This comes from the bad old days when many automobiles had barely adequate electrical systems. 

For some years now, my preference has been to turn on my parking lights any time I drive in daylight (that way I'm displaying red tail lights, amber front parking lights, and high beams on low voltage aka DRL's. Nothing to do with being able to see - everything to do with being seen.

I thought I would agree that ‘most’ vehicles tend to not put their lights AND tail-lights on when inclimate weather is upon us.  Even in heavy rain, full headlights and tail-lights should be on!  It makes me wonder if some folks actually look at their dash, as even well after dark, some cars have no tail-lights.