Glaring Fog Lamps

glaring fog lampsOne of the most common complaints I hear that is not about a moving violation concerns the use or misuse of lights on vehicles. Here is one of them: "What is really starting to annoy myself and many others is people driving with their fog lights on during clear nights or even during the day. Is this not an infraction? These lamps are often unreasonably bright."

I agree with this reader, I also find many fog lamps unreasonably bright, even during the daytime. What's to be done about it? The following information may help you to use these lights effectively and avoid causing problems for others.

First, let's be sure we are all on the same page. Fog lamps are identified by the SAE F marking on the lens, or a B above the circle with the E in it on European lamps. In B.C. you are allowed two fog lamps that emit either white or amber light. They must be mounted on the front of the vehicle, below the headlamps, but not more than 30 cm below. When you switch them on, the parking lamps, tail lamps, licence plate lamp and, if required, clearance lamps must also illuminate.

Fog lamps may be used in place of headlamps if atmospheric conditions make the use of headlamps disadvantageous. Otherwise, fog lamps may be used at any time of the day or night and in fact are used as the daytime running lamps on some vehicles.

Vehicle lighting at the time of a vehicle's manufacture is regulated by Transport Canada. Specifically, Technical Standards Document 108, which details construction, performance and location of lamps and reflectors.

Here in British Columbia, lighting use and maintenance is regulated in Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Essentially, it requires that the lights and reflectors that a vehicle was manufactured with must still be there and function as originally intended. Dimming of headlights and the times that vehicle lights must be used are also set out here.

I suspect that the unreasonable brightness comes from improper aim. Fog lamps must be adjusted and aimed so that, at a distance of 8 m from the lamp, the centre of the beam is at least 10 cm below the height of the fog lamp. Oddly enough, there is no tolerance specified as too low but anything higher than horizontal is too high.

There are other reasons that could contribute to problems. The use of LED replacement bulbs in housings designed for filament bulbs is one of them, along with using higher wattage filament bulbs than is intended. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publishes an inspection and approval protocol for vehicle lighting to help inspection facilities decide what to pass.

It is a good guide to follow if you are considering making modifications to your vehicle's lighting system.

Scott Marshall from Young Drivers of Canada has some good tips on using your vehicle's lights and fog lights when the weather is bad in this video:

Toyota adds this video about using rear fog lights:

Reference Links:

    I have written many emails and made many phone calls to legislators (Transport Canada and provincial highways, police (local RCMP and Integrated Traffic Services), trucking and driving forums, letters to the editor, etc.

    Transport Canada is responsible for the highways act but they just follow the US NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Sdministration). The NHTSA has done studies but is controlled by the auto manufacturers who use gimicks like fog lights to sell cars. The Transport Canada representative admitted that the manufacturers call them "money lights" because they are a high profit option and appeal to the younger drivers. The one suggestion I made that the Transport Canada representive liked and would recommend to NHTSA was to have the lights deactivated everytime you turned the car ignition off and require another action to turn them back on again when the car was restarted. My Saturn works this way; some drivers claim they don't know the driving/fog lights are on when questioned by the police.

      I had an agreement from a local RCMP officier to write warning letters to any vehicle that I provided her with license number, color and make; that lasted for a short period. Then I had an officier with Integrated Traffic services that agreed to that same procedure for a while but then abandoned me.

     I received support on some trucking forums but don't know if they were effective.

   The fact that some of the new vehicles don't meet current legislation should provide us with a starting point to get some action taken. I just don't know how.

   Anyone want to join forces or have any ideas??

Transport Canada is responsible for the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations, the provincial government is responsible for the Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations. In British Columbia the installation and operation of fog lamps is governed by the MVAR.

    I contacted them as well and they said they wouldn't do anything but follow what Transport Canada states and what the manufacturers produce. So even though they may be responsible they are not interested. I would like to put some heat on them to be responsible but don't know how. I emailed my MLA Mary Polak and someone at the Ministry of Transport with no action.

    I may be beating a dead horse, but I haven't given up.

Division 4 of the Regulations was overhauled once during my policing career. It needs to be done again to cover things like rear fog lights and fog lamp height. If you take your tape measure to a car dealership, you will find new vehicles for sale on the lot that don't meet what is required.

It's sad, but I agree with you, sometimes it seems like the rule makers are not at all interested in what you have to say and either ignore you outright or brush you off. I would rather hear something along the lines of "We know, but there are too many other things that are more important, such as ________ and ________ before we get to this" than to hear nothing at all.

Be a Bright Light at Night Driving

I just found this in a search about fog light use and found this it has conflicting info to what I have read. Bulletin five at the end says at the fog lights used in good driving conditions can blind other divers (I agree 100%) creating a safety hazard and could reasult in a fine enforcable by the RCMP. If this is true why is it not enforced? I tried to copy and paste the full bullet but it would not work. Something needs to be done regulations are not keeping up to techology.  90% of drivers are clueless when it comes to automotive lighting and couldn't tell you the differance between fog and driving lights and there correct use and thats a big safety problem add to that most cars come with some form of poorly designed fog lights that alot of people think are not bright enough or don't match the color tempature of their HID or LED headlights so they change to HID or LED and make them worse. Then there is the flood of cheap LED light bars and lights on the market ass well. Federal and Provincial Regulations need to be changed.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

It is illegal to use fog lights in place of headlights during good atmospheric conditions. I am unaware of any rule that forbids the use of fog lights during good weather and have asked about it in the thread referenced by your link above. We'll see what they have to say, perhaps I'll be learning something that I did not know again today.

I complained about these lights over a year ago. Especially the LED HID (high intensity discharge). First many of these vehicles are running four lights during the day. Secondly, these lights don’t dim. Trucks and Jeep vehicles seem to be the worst along with a few heavy tucks. Even some motorcycles.

I’ve even seen where you couldn’t tell if it was sunlight reflecting of the vehicle or the lights during the day. I find “amber” lights do just fine.

Although a few older cars have these HID lights installed as well. I thought that was against the motor vehicle act to have lights that do not dim.

I know it’s against the law to flash your lights back, but in some cases I have no alternative to let the vehicle’s driver know.

Newer vehicles seem to be okay. Night time driving with these HID lights coming toward you is total overkill for lighting. Very blinding on a rainy dark evening.

I believe we need the police to be educated more about the motor vehicle act for vehicle lighting and then have more enforcement on our roads and highways.

It just seems like there is no law enforcement on todays highways regarding lighting. Would like to see the inspection stations brought back.

I'm glad you mentioned the led lights - they are too bright and if aimed slightly up, it's like someone has their brights on. Not easy. I've never run into someone with fog lamps on but there sure a lot of those led lights around. Can you tell me, are there vehicles being sold with them or is it just an after purchase installation.

One problem with fog lights I have is with vehicles that are quite high on height. Being at 8 m. only 10 cm below the height of the physical light doesn't make sense for vehicles that are very high, such as pickups jacked up with extended shocks.

Good to know that there are actual rules in place,I was under the impression that you could plaster as many high powered lights where ever you want  incuding the roof,cowl, bumper or grill, and hit the road blinding everyone you encounter.I guess I stand corrected.