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Driving tips

How daytime running lights could earn you a ticket

Published August 7, 2013
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Q: Many cars drive at night with only daytime running lights. Approaching the car from behind, it’s a dark void, since taillights are also off.

I realized what’s happening after renting a Nissan Sentra recently. On starting, the dash glowed intensely bright. After dark, this may trick the driver into falsely believing their full lighting system is on. (Switching the lights on actually dims the dash.)

The daytime running lights do provide some forward lighting, just not as powerful as the main headlights. Maybe automakers should address this shortcoming in future.

A: Back in 1990, I drove a Ford LTD (work vehicle) with fully automatic lighting. The headlight switch worked as normal, or could be set to “autolamp” for headlights and taillights to activate automatically when dark. The lights turned off automatically when the ignition was off.

My dad briefly owned a 2001 Malibu, also with automatic lighting, so it does exist across all manufacturers.

Fully automatic lighting systems boost safety, because the lights come on at times most drivers wouldn’t bother with, such as when passing through a tunnel or underpass, or when it gets dark outside during the day due to an impending storm.

As you noted, many cars with daytime running lights require full headlights/taillights to be activated manually.

In any case, proper lighting is every driver’s responsibility. Section 62 HTA requires that vehicle headlights and taillights be activated from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise, or whenever it’s too dark to see clearly 150 metres ahead.

At night time or in darkness, driving a car or truck without two low-beam headlights and at least one taillight illuminated are violations. Daytime running lights are insufficient.

A ticket or warning from police is likely. This also applies if bulbs are blown.

Got a beef? Send it to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Include year, make, model and kilometres of autos cited, plus your name, address and telephone number. Personal replies cannot be handled due to volume

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