Something we often forget about headlights is that they are not just there to help us see the way forward. They are important to allow other road users and pedestrians to see us as well. Driving at night with headlights off can be dangerous, as other people may fail to see you before it is too late. The proud country of Canada wants to tackle this problem, so it is ordering new rules to improve the visibility of all cars on the road.
Called the The Canadian Vehicle Lighting Regulation, the new legislation entered into force on 1 September this year, as noted by Car and Driver earlier this week. The legislation was first announced back in 2018, and requires new vehicles to have one of three new features – tail lights that turn on whenever daytime running lights are turned on, automatic headlights, or a dashboard that it remains dark if the headlights are turned off. The legislation applies to all new vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and even 3-wheeled vehicles. Look at you, Polaris.
Regulation is a broad effort to improve safety on Canadian roads through better lighting management. The first part of the regulation aims to deal with one of the biggest problems with daytime running lights (DRLs). Inattentive drivers can be confused by DRLs to think the headlights are on while their car is completely dark from behind. The requirement that tail lights be turned on with DRLs should go some way to alleviate this issue.
The second option, automatic headlights, in themselves are not revolutionary technology. GM delivered the first Twilight Sentinel system in 1955, which was able to turn on the headlights when light levels dropped at night. This was followed by the previous 1952 Autronic Eye system which automatically switched the high beams back to low when the following drivers were found. They have become more popular in recent decades as technology has improved, and are now standard on many vehicles. Having headlights that turn on automatically when it’s dark helps a lot to alleviate the issue of drivers forgetting to turn them on, whether they’re confused by DRLs or just not paying attention.
The third option can be complicated when it comes to modern vehicles. Historically, traditional analog measuring instruments were lit when the headlights were switched on. The dark gauges while driving at night were a quick reminder that you had forgotten your headlights. However, many modern dashboards rely in part or entirely on digital screens. These screens emit light whenever they are working. They are often set to be brighter during the day and are blurred for driving at night to avoid disruptive glare. How these screens can operate under the new regulations is unclear; it is likely that manufacturers of such vehicles will only choose to comply with one of the other options under the legislation to avoid this issue altogether. The Drive reached Transport Canada for clarification on this issue.
Similar legislation is also being followed in other jurisdictions. The Japanese authorities have ordered that all newly introduced models will require automatic headlights from April 1, 2020, with the same legislation opening for all new cars sold from October 2021. However, other countries are not. they are rushing to do the same. The trend can still be followed by the widespread introduction of daytime running lights, which have been mandatory in the EU since 2011. limited effectiveness in NHTSA studies.
While the new regulations do nothing for existing vehicles already on Canada’s roads, they should help improve safety as time goes on. He expects similar regulations to become common in other parts of the world as well, as lawmakers seek to mandate that safer new technologies become standard.
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