Sunday 21 July 2019

Golden rules of lighting up your car so you see and are seen

Make sure you are not relying solely on your daytime running lights (DLRs) when darkness falls this winter

Daytime running lights
Daytime running lights

RSA Expert

On December 21 many of us breathed a sigh of relief as the shortest day of the year arrived. From then on, the light extends by a cockerel's leap each day. At least that's how it was described years ago.

Nonetheless, it's important to remember that the next couple of months can also be the darkest, with harsh weather conditions thrown into the mix.

Under EU Type Approval law, all vehicles manufactured since 2011 must be fitted with Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). These automatically activate when the engine is switched on.

They are a fantastic asset to road safety and reduce the likelihood of side or head-on collisions during the day.

However, just as the darkness creeps in unnoticed so too has an over-reliance on modern technology.

Judging by recent correspondence, a growing number of motorists are mistaking their DRLs for dipped headlights. Now, no one is doing this intentionally. It's an honest mistake as drivers start out in the daytime and fail to recognise the fading light. But unfortunately it poses a severe road-safety risk.

DRLs don't produce enough light to illuminate the road in darkness.

Some manufacturers choose to pair front daytime running lights with rear ones too, but it is not compulsory.

This means there may be some motorists driving around at night in the mistaken belief that just because they have lights which switch on automatically at the front, they are also on at the rear.

So, driving with DRLs at night not only seriously diminishes your view of the road, your visibility to others is minimal and you could run the risk of being rear ended.

Therefore, if you have dedicated DRLs on your vehicle, make sure to switch to your headlights during 'lighting up' hours - legally defined as 'the period commencing one half-hour after sunset on any day and expiring one half-hour before sunrise on the next day'.

If your car isn't fitted with DRLs we would encourage you to use your dipped headlights instead during the day to increase your visibility.

If you are not sure whether your car has DRLs, start the engine to see if any lights come on automatically to the front (assuming you have all other lights turned off).

Another lighting area about which we get numerous complaints is the glare emitted from HID and LED bulbs.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are more focused, emit brighter light and are generally found in high-end cars.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights, also known as xenon bulbs, have a slightly bluish tint and are much brighter than regular halogen headlights.

So, what does the law say on the use of these?

Well, HID and LED lamps are legal, so long as they conform to European manufacturing standards and are fitted to vehicles for which they are compatible.

Retrofitted HID and LED bulbs - those not fitted originally by the manufacturer - aren't always compatible with the vehicle. They are most likely not suited to the vehicle headlamp, therefore the glare is more likely to dazzle which is an offence under the lighting regulations.

But it's not always the type of bulb that's at fault. Other factors, such as headlight aim alignment or even a build-up of dirt on the lenses, can cause light to be directed upwards, blinding oncoming traffic.

The NCT and CVRT road-worthiness tests check the alignment of a vehicle's lights to ensure they are level. However, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is roadworthy. So it's important to check regularly that all your lights are working, and properly aligned.

As we make our way to brighter days, one cockerel's leap at a time, make sure you're seen and can see the road ahead. From dusk to dawn let your dipped headlights shine but don't dazzle oncoming drivers.

Crucially, if your vehicle is fitted with daytime running lights, remember to switch on your dipped headlights at lighting up time.

Indo Motoring

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