Daytime Running Lights Turn 25

Daytime Running LightsDaytime running lights (DRLs) have been mandatory equipment on all vehicles in Canada since model year 1990. That means we're passing the quarter century mark of the introduction of this safety feature. The final version of Statistics Canada's Canadian Vehicle Survey was published in 2010 and at that point, vehicles older than model year 1991 make up less than 5.5% of the total number of light vehicles on our highways. We should not encounter many vehicles that don't have DRLs during our travels.

In my experience, many people like lights and often add extras to their vehicles, either for a specific safety purpose or for decoration. Why would some vehicle owners purposely disable their DRLs even though it is not legal to do so in British Columbia? The best justification that I could find for this is because the use of DRLs slightly increases fuel consumption. Newer vehicles use LEDs or signal light filaments to provide adequate light yet minimize fuel consumption.

I suspect that fuel efficient driving techniques would more than offset the cost of DRLs and contribute to their safety gain.

DRLs also guard against carelessness or inattentiveness, at least for drivers facing the vehicle. It is a popular complaint from DriveSmartBC respondents that drivers will drive without lights at times of poor visibility. Automatic lighting systems are popular in new vehicles, but until you buy one you do have to remember to turn on rear lights when necessary.

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Obsuring signal lights

I believe obscuring signal lights is the main justification for not having DRLs.  

However, all new vehicles that I see on the road seem to automatically turn off a DRL when the directional signal light is active on that side.  I assume this is now a requirement for new vehicles produced in the last 2 or 3 years.


I doubt the drivers disabling their DLRs are doing so to save fuel as those same drivers that disobey that law by disabling their DLRs probably break the law by speeding, therefore they do not save fuel.

I have noticed how many more drivers since the time change who do not pay attention and turn on their headlight switch so they have tail lights. Hey drivers, it is dark an hour later, turn on those light switches before you are rear ended.

I Agree

For the most part, I agree with you Richard, but didn't think that it was appropriate to put in the article. There is the odd environmentally friendly person out there, but I think that they would find more appropriate ways to save than disabling their vehicle's DRL system.

Submitted by E-mail

BC RCMP do not enforce DRL nor ticket people. I drive van is daily and I would estimate 10% do not use DRL

Yes Sir. BC RCMP does not enforce MANY LAWS

DRL supposed to help reducing accidents. That's why they are mandated since 1990.  Logically,  reducing accidents is a high priority to ICBC and any policing agencies but in reality increase road safety and reducing accidents are just 'marketing spills".  They are not important to enforce DRL laws.

It is very easy to spot a vehicle that is newer than 25y.o. Many of these vehicle does not have DRL. Any one of them on the road is , relatively speaking, increasing our chance of an accident, injuries and insurance premium.

It is not up to the driver to use DRL or not because for any legitimate vehicles in BC manufactured after 1990, DRL turns on automatically. 

It is the USA imports that does NOT have DRL. 

I bought one of these vehicles and the seller had the 'required' inpsection done by an 'accredited' mechanical as such be able to registered the vehicle in BC. First, the reported collision damages on this vehicle was indicated to be on the right rear quarter but in fact the damanges were on the Left. Also DRL supposed to be retro-fitted. Signed off by the accredited shop. The seller claimed he did not like the DRL  and disabled it after having the vehicle registered. But when I bought the vehilce I wanted to 're-active" it, none of the wiring to the headlights (low, high or foglight) were touched. I researched and this vehicle did not have a software activation programming to activate Canadian specifics functions and equipment. No installation of any retro-fit equipment whatsoever. Being as a handy person and care about accidents to me and the fellows drivers on the road, I installed an aftermarket module for less than $40. I also took the car to BCAA and got my independent inspection before I bougth the vehicle. They pointd out the former collision damages and inoperative DRL correctly. 

ICBC gives these 'acccredited' shops a free ticket to sign off any unqualified imports. It just like letting them to sign their paid cheques. If someone pays them a fee they signed off without doing their job.

If RCMP and other policing agencies every ticket these newer vehicles which do not have DRL they would find out

             1) the vehicle has the DRL's but DE-activated by the driver/owner . That altering a safety equipment of a vehicle. Pretty big offence. But not big enough for the policing agencies to care!

             2) they are imports without all the required safety equipment; further investiage which shop signed them off to be registered in BC. That's fradulent act. Also not serious enough to be cared by policing agencies and ICBC!

This is not able writing tickets and using the fines as cash cow to the government. This is about public safety and uphelding laws so the public knows they have to be a responsible person to themselves and other users on the road.

I guess none of these are important to RCMP and ICBC.  If you ever go to them to raise your concerns, ICBC would point the fingers to RCMP and police agencies because they are the one who supposed to do the enforcement. RCMP would ALWAYS tell you they cannot be everywhere, everyday. Yes.. It is true. BUT when they see a vehicle without DRL on do they actually ticket them?  And find out why DRL was not activated or installed?

'Cannot be everywhere, everyday' is a lame excuse.  Cherry picking which law to enforce and which to ignore (and put users on the road at higher risk).is a HIGHER priority to public safety and accident reduction is the reality.

Hold it a moment, please.

ICBC gives these 'acccredited' shops a free ticket to sign off any unqualified imports.

No, they don't. I've been through this process, with vehicles imported to BC from both Alberta and the US. It's a precondition of being able to register and insure the vehicle here, ensuring that it meets all current Provincial and Federal safety standards (including functioning DRL's).

I've also been a Driving School Administrator, in charge of a fleet of around a dozen vehicles, all of which had to be maintained to the standard necessary to earn their annual Government Inspection sticker.

Currently, I operate a business that combines Class 4 Driving Instruction with Passenger Transportaion. So my own vehicle has to pass Government Inspection twice annually. So I know about this stuff, in the practical and general sense.

If someone pays them a fee they signed off without doing their job.

That is a scurrilous accusation to level at an entire industry.

Only certified mechanics with the appropriate accreditation are allowed to conduct Government Inspections, as these are called. Oversight is as stringent as resources allow, I would guess; but I'm damn certain that if you reported the facility that passed your vehicle, action will be swift and severe. ICBC abhors dodgy shops, whether it be Collision or Mechanical certification that they've provided.

Are there some bad actors in the industry? Certainly; but they are absolutely the exception, rather than the rule. That's how it is. Nobody, least of all ICBC, gains from having poorly qualified or slimy characters in the industry - except the owners/operators of crappy vehicles that shouldn't be on the road, who only think in terms of avoiding maintenance costs rather than public safety.

From interest, which facility provided your Government Inspection? What's the Decal number on the windshield sticker? 

RCMP would ALWAYS tell you they cannot be everywhere, everyday. Yes.. It is true. BUT when they see a vehicle without DRL on do they actually ticket them?  And find out why DRL was not activated or installed?

Well actually, yes they do, from time to time. Frankly, one of my pet peeves is inoperative lights on a vehicle, whether it's parking lights, headlights, stop lights, or signals. And there sure are a lot of them out there these days - they should never have closed the Inspection Stations back in 1984 (or turned them into AirCare facilities, which doesn't appear to have improved anything really).

But if you take a look at the latest traffic ticket statistics for Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (that being for 2019) here, then it turns out that they issue hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets a year for both lighting infractions and failure to have necessary certification of inspection.

Plus which, while vehicles with non-functioning brake lights or turn signals are obviously in contravention of the law, we enjoy having kazillions of rich american tourists come visit us every year. And they don't need DRLs! Heck, something like 23 US states don't require a front license plate.

So if you were a cop, would you be snapping a quick U-Turn to jump on all of these folks coming towards you, who appear to be in contravention of BC law, in the name of public safety and compliance?


I'm encouraged to read that I am not the only one that would like to see more enforcement of DRL's. It is time that the Federal law was re-written in a format that would make it mandatory for provinces and territories to enforce and to have vehicles run with headlights at all times. This could be in the format of DRL including taillights and or lowbeam headlights.

When one travels to another country it is mandatory that one follows the rules of the country you are visiting. If it was a requirement that headlights had to be used at all times anyone crossing the border in a vehicle could be given a decal stating headlights required at all times.

Ticketing. Last stats regarding tickets issued is from 2016. There was 40,000 red light tickets, 38,000 cell phone and 21,000 seat belt violation. Which totals 91,000 tickets for 22% of all tickets issued. Finding any information on tickets issued for DRL's is impossible but to the best of my ability I have come up with 770 tickets issued under section 4.01 which is Drive without required lighted lamps. This could be for anything even a burnt out licence plate lamp or a truck with one clearance light not functioning.

Going from personal observation I would say at least 5% of the vehicles on the road either have non functional DRL's or at least one burnt out. I would expect 4,500 tickets to be issued. Of course you could add the same percentage to those stopped for speeding and that would increase the number by 8,000 vehicles for a total of 12,500.

I know it is expecting a tremendous amount of our overworked police officers to issue tickets for non functioning DRL's but if they have a vehicle stopped for seat belts, cell phones, or someone viewing a photo of a vehicle running a red light could they not incorporate a quick glance as they are stopping the vehicle to see if they are functioning and include it in the ticket for the other infraction? And as for photos of vehicles running red lights, it is the vehicle owner responsible for maintaining the condition so there is no worry the registered owner is going to put the blame on someone that borrowed the vehicle.

Have wondered how many of the accidents that happen in Alberta are caused due to the DRL's not functioning? Tried getting information from the Fort McMurray area unfortunately didn't even get a reply. Here you have straight roads with several head on collisions. Could it be with the low ambient lighting associated with winter that a vehicle with no lights just is not seen?

It also seems from observation that people that disconnect the lights are usually the last ones to turn on their headlights.

And for anyone reading this in the summer of 2018 please turn on all lights when you hit the heavy smoky conditions most of B.C. is currently experiencing. Visibility is terrible.


Running Lights Only

Many drivers do not turn on their lights at night using only the running lights and on many vehicles that means they have not lights at the rear of the car.  Our Honda is like that.

The reason for the problem:

"Many drivers do not turn on their lights at night using only the running lights and on many vehicles that means they have not lights at the rear of the car. Our Honda is like that." It's a really stupid oversight by the manufacturer - the dashboard is illuminated in the same way as in the 'old' cars, inasmuch as the instrument panel is lit up; so this leads drivers to assume that their lights have turned on automatically. DRLs should do no more than illuminate the blue high beam indicator at low voltage; then drivers would realize when they need to turn on their headlights.

Take it one more step further

"leads drivers to assume" - I think drivers simply forget - whenever pulling out of an "irregular" spot - i.e. not from home or work - I would sometimes forget to click them - only to get high-beamed repeatedly, and with deep-purple embarrassment and shame would I click them on and wave-off to the informer.

"drivers would realize.. to turn them on" - thats how it worked in old cars - but why?

Why would these light need to be turned off at all? Saving the light bulbs - with the 100,000 hours of life on LEDs?
There are no longer any good reasons left that I see to have these lights being off at all - make them ALWAYS-ON just like DRL. My current car has an "AUTO" setting - so I don't even worry about them.

The DRL difference.

Well the idea behind having Daytime Running Lights illuminated on the front of the vehicle is quite different from having headlights on.

DRLs are not intended to assist the driver's night-time vision; rather, they are designed to attract attention from other road users, to ensure that the vehicle has been seen.  The human eye automatically responds to both movement and light (which is why turn signals flash, for instance).  So DRLs are typically high beams running on 6 volts, I do believe; that way there's little danger of them blinding other drivers.

But headlights are designed not to attract the notice of other drivers - parking lights and marker lights take care of that at night - but to assist the driver in seeing his path ahead.


I remember when I first saw DRLs in action, didn't know what the heck they were; I was working in transport as a Race Event Volunteer of Vancouver when the Indy car race came to town, and Chevrolet had donated a number of vehicles for use during the weekend, all brand new 1991 cars, vans, and trucks.  So for a little while we were all going around telling each other to turn our lights off as they had to be on by accident, eh?


acutally running lights does

acutally running lights does nothing for mileage. When you start a car it turns an alternator which cranks out 14.5 volts to charge a 12 volt car battrey. Once it's running you can pull the battrey out and the car will keep running since it creates anough power to run the car and all it's systems. you only need a battrey to start a car once it's running the alternator turns regardless. So turning on a stero ect does nothing turning on AC with the compersor that then is turned off the car's engine does make you burn more fuel as it's 1 more thing turning but running lights, stero ect has no effect.


Actually this was a poorly written law/requirement by the DOT when it was enacted.  There was/is no logical reason why the tail lights were exempted from the "lights" as the ignition was switched on.

At least the got it right for motorcycles!

A few years back, I had a chance to discuss a few issues with a couple of BC Highways engineers from Victoria. One point was that since DRLs were commonplace, the signage "Use Head Lights Through Tunnel" was redundant.  A cheap, effective change would be to overpaint "Head" with "Tail".  You noticed how they got right on it, eh?

But then, was I dealing with the same people who used the wording, "Slower Traffic Keep Right" rather than what's been in the MVA since I can remember, "Keep Right Except To Pass".  The first one begs the courtroom question, "Slower than what?"  Ah yes, the Canadian way .... don't enforce the law, just write more!


Use of lights on dark, rainy days

I cannot believe how many people drive around without proper lights, front and rear. Saturday I drove from Vancouver to North Delta in a torrential downpour and a full 30-40% of vehicles had NO tail lights. The rain was so bad I could hardly see two car lengths in front of me. I also see this through the Massey Tunnel; no headlights at all in some cases, so no rear lights either, and just the DRLs which in most vehicles does not activate the rear lights.

I drove home from YVR yesterday at dusk, and at least 20% of drivers were not lit up properly and safely.

It's important to be seen all year-round, but especially important on these dark and dreary days.

I would see DRLs in some cases, but once they got past me, no tail lights! This is extremely dangerous, and I wonder what it's going to take for people to do a very simple thing when they get into their vehicles:  TURN YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON ! They are not to see, they are to be seen! Don't people see other vehicles without rear lights and realize they may not have any either?

Also, why are so many people running around with blind-the-oncoming-driver fog lights in place of or in addition to headlights when it's not foggy? Do drivers know they can disable fog lights?

I don't have a new or expensive car. I get in and, without thinking, buckle up and turn the headlights on, rain or shine. In 8 years with the same car I've never had to replace a headlight, so if anyone is using that "excuse", it's a lame one.

manufacturers using High-Beam as DRL

The DRL law allows High/Low Beam and foglight to be used as DRL as long as the intensity of the lights are reduced to below 92% (I believe) of their intended function.. 

Some manufacturers for the sake of Low-Beam light-bulb longitivity use the High-Beam as DRL.  Pretty good idea ...But some of their engineers are not very thorough to say the least.

High-Beam blinds oncoming traffic. Not a big problem during daytime but many drivers do not know or do not care about drivers in the opposite lanes. They just use DRL at night instead of turning the Low-Beam on (where the DRL would be automaticallyturn off). 

What contributed to these drivers behaviour was some of these manufacturers turn on the daskboard lights with DRL (basically the dashboard lights are on FULL-TIME). Drivers in these vehicles would never know to turn on their Low-Bean headlight because their dashboard was lit up at night time.  Bright outside, thanks to the -High-Beam and bright inside, no need to adjust any action (ie turn on headlight while driving at night).

Engineers of these manufacturers really are incompetent. Is it that difficult to figure out dashboard light not necessary when DRL is on. And dark dashboard would prompt drivers to active regular headlights which turn off DRL and stop blinding the oncoming traffic and the drivers immediately in front of them?

What about the engineers at Transportation Canada?  They could not figure it out too? And allow manufactureres to use High-Beam as DRL without deactivating the dashboard lighting?

Yes. some will argue before DRL there were always someone forgetting to turn on their headlights at night. Yes. I did that twice 30 years. But when someone flashed their lights in front of me and I saw my dashboard totally darken, I knew I forgot my low-beam.

Many of the these drivers I ended up pulling aside and rolled down my window to talk to, they had no clues at all. In fact, it is very difficult to tell someone they had the wrong lights on and blinding traffic because they NEVER ever turned on their low-beam since they got their car. They did not know they had to nor knowing HOW to turn on the low-beam.

Next time when you drive at night, see how many drivers rely on their DRL as normal headlights.  It becomes acceptable to the 'law enforcement' agencies. 

The worst part to this is when someone was distracted by the high-beam DRL and ended up in an accident, the instingator of the accident is long gone driving on the opposite lane.. If an average driver drives 15-20,000 km a year, how many drivers in the opposite lanes would be affected every day?  

I drive a SUV and still find the high-beam very distracting. I feel sorry for the sedan drivers. I wish I have the specially trained eyes of the law enforcement officers who could tolerate the high-beams and still drive safely at night.

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