Daytime running lights: Should you use them?

John Mack — 29 August 2016

Jean and I have just covered some 1,800 kilometres down through South Australia and across the Nullarbor back to WA. Jean did all the towing as I was crook, but it gave me the opportunity to have a real look at the different driving conditions we encountered on the trip – without the distraction of actually driving.

Every day the conditions on the road continually changed, as did the traffic volumes and weather conditions. Often, even in good road and weather conditions, vehicles would appear out of the camouflaged background – hitting a patch of sunlight after being hidden as a dark vehicle against a dark shaded background.

This was only a problem if the said vehicle did not have their lights on. Those that had running lights or dipped headlights were always visible, even in the furthest distance. In most conditions, side and parking lights were almost as ineffective as no lights at all.

It would appear that there are a proportion of drivers who believe their vehicle headlights’ sole purpose is to enable them to see where they are going and nothing else. Perhaps they have never considered what a valuable aid they are for others to easily spot them, and how that may benefit their overall safety when driving.

Equally as bad are drivers who don’t turn on their vehicle lights until virtually full darkness has descended. Perhaps they figure that if they can still see where they are going that’s good enough!

In poor weather conditions this scenario is significantly worsened. Fortunately, most drivers are pretty good about ‘lights on’ in bad weather conditions; but those are not, are a danger to themselves and other road users.  It costs nothing to have your lights on when driving – it will not wear them out or run your batteries down.

Even if you own and drive an older vehicle, like our Landcruiser, there is really no excuse for not having dipped headlights on during daytime driving. Perhaps not so critical in the cities, but out in the country it should be the absolute everyday norm.

The Europeans recognised the value of daytime running lights – as well as peoples’ resistance to to voluntarily switch on their lights – and so design rules were changed and the requirement for daytime running lights was legislated back in February 2011, making it compulsory for new vehicles to be equipped with appropriate running lights that come on when the vehicles are started.  

This can be seen in many of the modern imported cars on the road in Australia today who sport those snazzy little ‘eyebrow’ shaped LED light bars. Daytime running lights are not yet compulsory in Australia but their application is covered in ADR’s (Australian Design Rules) and various State Legislation. 

Whilst this is a step in the right direction, there are still a great many vehicles on the road today that have no lights on during daylight hours. Do you support ‘lights on’ during daylight driving hours – and if not, please tell us why not?


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John Mack