Headlights — what does it take to get drivers to use them?

December was snowier than normal. It also had an abundance of dark, cloudy days. It also had far too many drivers driving merrily along without using their headlights!

Why? Don’t they know how hard it is for other drivers to see them? Are they so distracted with whatever that they don’t think to turn on their lights?

Unfortunately, the United States, for whatever reasons, has never taken the steps that Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Russia and Canada have in mandating that all new or imported vehicles be equipped with daytime running lights. This is, unfortunate, because far too many drivers just don’t realize the safety factor in driving with lights on at all times. And, even in the thickest fog, the heavy snowstorms and after sunset, they just plain forget or refuse to turn on their lights.

The first country to mandate DRLs was Finland in 1972. Finland and the rest of Scandinavia, Russia, and Canada are all located well north of the equator. DRLs were first mandated in northern countries because of the greater amount of twilight and darker days, especially in the winter, than exists in countries closer to the equator. The same can be said for Northern New York we get darker winter days and a lower angle of sunshine than states farther south. We are excellent candidates for headlights at all times.

Benefits of using DRLs (or headlights in daytime)

Overseas studies have shown that daytime running lights reduce daytime accidents by making vehicles more conspicuous to other road users. The greatest benefits are with the more severe accidents, including head-on and intersection crashes and collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

According to European studies on the effectiveness of DRLs in improving road safety, the potential savings are:

– 25 percent of daytime multi-vehicle fatal accidents (11 percent of all non-pedestrian fatal accidents)

– 28 percent of daytime fatal pedestrian accidents (12 percent of all fatal pedestrian accidents)

– 20 percent of daytime multi-vehicle injury accidents

– 12 percent of daytime multi-vehicle property accidents

Applying the above reduction in fatalities, if the U.S. were ever to mandate DRLs, it would save approximately 3,000 to 4,000 lives in the US annually! These are remarkable savings for a relatively simple vehicle safety feature.

Additional important benefits of DRLs as reported in the studies include:

– Improved visibility (detection) and improved reaction times and estimation of speed and distance

– In addition to increasing the distance at which vehicles could be reliably detected, DRLs make vehicles appear closer. This makes drivers more likely to reject short gaps for a potentially hazardous maneuver

-The initial positive effects of DRLs do not dissipate over time (i.e. there is unlikely to be a novelty effect)

So, until the U.S. mandates DRLs on vehicles, if ever, drivers need to turn on headlights whenever weather conditions or darkness warrants it. One more tip -?if an approaching vehicle does not have their lights on and you feel they should, it’s permissible, in fact advisable, to flash your bright lights once as a reminder.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s website at and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under departments then look for Did You Know articles under “service.” “Like” us on Facebook as well.