A bright idea, too long coming

Transport Canada has, at long last, introduced new lighting standards that will require tail lights to be activated when the vehicle is in motion.

More specifically, as of 2021, manufacturers will have to build vehicles that either have daytime running lights and tail lights that come on when the vehicle instrument panel is illuminated and the car is running; automatically turn on the headlights, tail lights, and side marker lights in low-light conditions; or keep the driver’s instrument panel dark so the driver knows to turn on all the lights.

The new lighting standard will also allow for “advanced lighting technologies” that boost visibility without blinding oncoming traffic.

This new standard is a bright idea, that was long overdue. I’ve always felt that daytime running lights were one of the most misguided requirements to be introduced in the name of road safety. All it has done, is instill in drivers a false sense of security and an assumption they can be seen in low-light conditions.

Yes, vehicles with daytime running lights are easy to spot when coming in the opposite direction. But in dense fog or heavy rain, the greater danger is coming upon a “ghost” vehicle that’s tail lights remain off. And it happens all the time.

It never ceases to amaze me how many cars travel in poor weather without any tail lights. And why?

How difficult would it be for manufacturers to require both tail lights and head lights to come on when the car is running?

Truck drivers, with a higher vantage point, can often see over road spray and get a decent look at vehicles ahead. But for the majority of drivers, in smaller vehicles, it’s quite difficult at times to see the rear of an unlit car.

Requiring tail lights to be activated when the vehicle is in operation is one of the easiest – and most effective – safety standards that can be implemented.

“Phantom vehicles have been a nuisance and a safety risk on Canada’s roads for many years,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau. “The new measures we’re taking will improve nighttime visibility and safety for all Canadian road users. As more new vehicles are built to our lighting safety standard, phantom vehicles will eventually become ghosts of the past.”

I agree, Minister Garneau, but why must we wait until September 2021 to take action?

The new standard should be implemented immediately. Lives count on it.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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