Daytime Running Lights: What Do They Do? Are They Mandatory?

Most people won't know this, but daytime running lights (DRLs) have been around since 1984, with the Volvo 240 being the first car to be equipped with them. While no one remembers Volvo's inclusion in the daytime running lights field, what we do know is that these lighting elements have several safety benefits for a technology that is not so recent. But what are they for? And even more, are they mandatory to wear? Read on to find out.

Daytime running lights were originally popularized in parts of the world where daylight can often be dim and short-lived (see Nordic countries). They work great as a way to identify the car using them from other cars on the road . And unlike headlights, they're not designed to illuminate the road ahead, and they don't have any function behind (there aren't). They are simply dim lights at the front of the vehicle that greatly facilitate the visibility of our car.

What are daytime running lights?

Daytime running lights are designed to make vehicles more visible to other road users. They are LED diodes that are usually integrated into the headlights, or in a separate section in the bumper. These come on automatically when the engine is running and turn off when the main headlights are in use, ie at night. Whether you've admired a fancy “light signature” on a new car or frowned at blazing LEDs in a rearview mirror, they make themselves stand out.

What are the benefits of daytime circulation?

Studies have shown that daytime running lights can reduce the risk of traffic accidents . A 1997 Canadian report showed a 5.7% drop in passenger car crashes with DRLs installed, while a 2000 US study put the figure at 7%. The European Union did not investigate the issue until 2003, but suggested a possible reduction of between 5 and 15%. In many new cars, the instrument clusters are always illuminated, making it harder to tell when the headlights are on.

Which cars have daytime running lights as standard?

Daytime running lights were once the exclusive property of premium German cars . Now, the vast majority of new models have them installed. In fact, regarding the mandatory use of the lights, EU law dictates that all newly launched vehicles sold since February 2011 must be equipped with DRL lights . However, it's worth noting that new cars released before that date don't have to carry them: the rule only applies to models that have debuted (or significantly improved) since then.

Can I install daytime running lights on the car?

If your car does not have daytime running lights, there are several aftermarket kits available . Generally, they cost from 30 euros, although you must take into account the cost of installation by a qualified electrician. Ideally, the daytime running lights are programmed to turn off when the main headlights are on. If you have a separate switch for them, you should remember to turn them off at night.

In itself, the installation of the DRL is not mandatory, but it can help prevent an accident. Alternatively, you can use your low beams during the day, though they won't be as bright as your daytime running lights. When it comes to bulbs, it's a good idea to check them regularly , as lights are an important part of visibility on the road, helping you and other road users stay safe.

Finally, it should be noted that daytime running lights should never be used as a replacement for dipped beams in low light conditions . Not only because they illuminate differently (DRLs are made to be seen, while low beams offer extra illumination), but also because there are no daytime running lights at the rear of the car. Unless you activate the car's headlights when the light levels begin to drop, the rear of the vehicle will not be illuminated at all.

Therefore, daytime running lights are a legal requirement, but headlights should always be used in reduced visibility or low light conditions . DRLs are for the sole purpose of making traveling around town or on the highway safer during the day.