05 November 2009

Daylight Headlights

Once you start getting into traffic safety it becomes a Pandora's box with a very loose lid.

Daylight Running Lights. This is a new one for me. Laws requiring cars to have their headlights on all the time.

Living in Denmark, this is normal. All cars have their headlights on and are equipped with systems that turn them on as soon as you start the car. I remember driving a Danish car in Spain and so many kind motorists and pedestrians kept gesturing to me that my lights were on but I didn't know how to turn them off.

I always figured that given the limited light in the winter [and fall and spring] in Scandinavia, this was a good idea. So discovering an entire movement against Daylight Running Lights was a surprise and an interesting one at that. Our reader Charlie sent a link in the comments section of this post.

This website called Drivers Against Daytime Running Lights is quite clear about their opposition to potential laws. I have a default setting that causes me to be sceptical every time I see Drivers Against Something, since it rarely is productive or helpful to society at large.

But even the British CTC, in this .pdf, comes out strong against laws for 24/7 headlights:

However, our concerns over any proposal for a blanket requirement to use DRL in daytime are as follows:
- The use of DRL is likely to be detrimental to cyclists’ safety by increasing the chances of drivers failing either to “see” or to “notice” cyclists. This could occur either because light sources (such as headlights) cause visual darkening in the area around them (i.e. cyclists, or indeed pedestrians, could be “masked” by lights behind them), or because the widespread presence of lights would divert drivers’ attention away from other visual information (e.g. the presence of a pedestrian or cyclist), or because drivers become increasingly accustomed to the habit of looking for “lights” (rather than “people” or “vehicles”) to signify the presence of a hazard on the road.

- The ensuing increase in the risks faced by (pedestrians and) cyclists could undermine efforts to encourage increased (walking and) cycling, thus having significant disbenefits in terms of wider health, environmental and other social objectives.

- Moreover, the additional energy required for DRL would significantly increase fuel consumption and hence greenhouse emissions from transport, at a time of mounting evidence of the urgency with which we need to take serious action to avert runaway climate change.

The DADRL website is shrill and alarmist - reason for scepticism right off the bat since shrill and alarmist drivers are rarely sober and balanced - but there are some interesting names on their links page, including pedestrian groups and even the European Cyclists' Federation.

Although after this link - National Motorists' Association USA - you can read that "the NMA were instrumental in lifting the 55mph speed limit - accidents have reduced".

Yeah, right.

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone out there in BlogReaderLand can enlighten me about this issue? Anybody heard of it and what do you think?