DRL’s and Road Signs

I live in the cold of Canada. For those of you far south of here, you may not be as heavily affected by daylight savings time. From my limited and ignorant perspective, the further you are from the equator, the less daylight you have during the winter months. The daylight hours are far longer during the summer than in the winter. I live on one of the southern most points of Canada, and even then, it’s a difference of many hours during the summer versus the winter.

For the most part Canada uses mainly American department of transportation standards for all new vehicles being sold in Canada. There are some exceptions like the Pontiac GTO, Toyota MR-S, Scion when they first came out, most versions of the American Mitsubishi Evo didn’t pass bumper laws here in Canada and inversely the first generation diesel Smart Car didn’t pass the American’s requirement to guzzle gasoline and take up huge amounts of space. These differing rules between Canada’s Ministry of Transportation and the American Department of Transportation regarding vehicle safety is quite rare. However, some other examples come to mind in the last 20 years. For the Americans, due to their inability to buckle up they were graced temporarily with the terrorizing “Automatic Seatbelts” which attempted to murder the occupants leaning into their car to check the time, by automatically trying to strap a potential occupant into the car whether they were ready or not. Canada faced a different, but mandatory original equipment, device called Day Time Running Lights, or DRL for short. Canada most likely has DRL’s because of our much shorter daylight during the winter months.

DRL’s were a logical idea for most motorists, though many motorcyclists gripe. DRL’s are dimmer than usual headlights or just the regular low beam automatically on when the vehicle is running with the parking brake in the released position. This means that all cars sold after a certain date must be equipped with DRLs from the manufacturer. The US has never had this requirement. It may be a bit strange as an American driving through Canadian soil to witness a sea of headlights on the highway.

It’s a logical idea, to have the headlight on, giving vehicles traveling towards you in the daylight more visible life. The vehicles appear more alive and in motion, and are far more recognizable. However, just like the American automatic seatbelts, DRL’s have their own problems. Here’s a few I noticed:

-By far the biggest issue is the lights of the vehicle appear on, even though the switch is in the off position. As of recent, DRL lights have become a separate bulb entirely on many new cars. Often a low wattage, unfocused beam, basically a general glow, rather than a projecting headlight. However, for many years the DRL system was just a vehicles low beam. always on. This is because DRL’s, as far as I know are only required in Canada, so most manufacturers add it in as an after thought, rather than an original feature. It’s easy to add a DRL box to the vehicle which slightly adjusts the wiring to the low beams.

Most Canadian drivers think nothing of the day time running light system. The few that are aware of it are those who import cars younger than 15 years old from the United States, where DRL’s must be installed upon importing. The rest of the Canada probably doesn’t know they exist. This majority will leave their house, as the sun sets their low beams will be more than enough light to continue driving around town without turning their headlights to the on position. But what’s the problem with this?

DRL’s do not activate the parking and running lights. In most vehicles, when the headlights are activated the parking lights (the 4 orange corner markers) and the running lights (the taillights-low brightness) will activate. Parking lights are a small orange light located at the extreme edge of each corner of the vehicle, often small and low brightness, when all other lights are off, an approaching vehicle in the dark can get a sense of the dimension of the parked car. These lights are also on when the headlights are turned on. These parking lights are most noticeable on transport trucks who have them every few feet along their trailer. Running lights are the low brightness filament in the taillight bulb, or a separate red light all together. Their purpose are to show drivers in the dark, that an approaching vehicle is facing the rear of the car. They also signify that the key is in the ignition “ON” position to other drivers, thus their name. Red means a car is moving away from you, and white means a vehicle is moving towards you. The brake lights shine even brighter than the running lights when the brake pedal is depressed.

Though appearing to the driver that their headlights are on, DRL’s do not turn on running or parking lights. This means a huge number of vehicles are driving around without realizing their running lights are not on in the dark. In the well lit city this isn’t much of an issue, however, in the dark outskirts, or even heavy rain, fog and snow, drivers are far less likely to notice a vehicle in front of them once the sun has set. This is problem #1.

-Old wisdom, mixed with American driving safety culture cause our second problem. It is proven that turning your headlights on during the day will drastically reduce the likeliness of a collision. This is extremely true, and the reason why here in Canada DRL’s are mandatory. Many older drivers are in the habit of turning on their headlights at all times of driving. This is an old wisdom here in Canada. It’s perpetuated by the American culture of safe driving leaking over the boarder, as they do not have DRL’s on their vehicles. This problem has to do with the running lights we mentioned earlier. By switching your headlights on during the day, the running lights also come on. During the night, the difference in the brightness between the low glow of the running light, and the bright brake light is distinct and obvious. Inversely during the day this difference is far less noticeable. Especially on bright days with high amounts of sun reflection, it’s more helpful to have the taillight completely off and light up only when the brake pedal is depressed. The contrast between the drivers actions is far more noticeable.

There is a reason that DRL’s here in Canada do not activate the running or parking lights. That they only run the headlights or a similar bulb on the front of the vehicle. DRL’s were designed this way on purpose! 🙂 So, in short. Turn your fucking headlights on at night, don’t forget, and leave them off during the day. Done, solved.

 

I’d like to tack on another gripe I’ve had as of recent: In correct road signs.
This is how road signs are supposed to work:

We can add this whole sign combo up: It suggests kids are playing ahead, you have to go 30km/h maximum now. Easy.

Here’s the problem: Who ever is in charge of the signs in Langford BC probably doesn’t have a license. I’ve seen Yellow diamond arrows used for lane ending signs, and yellow diamonds placed right at an object rather than before it. Regular 30 signs placed beside or a few feet in front of school zone signs which retain their restrictions, (meaning the entire road is 30km/h except the school zone area outside of school hours, making it technically legal to speed up to 50 km/h in the school zone only…..). I’ve seen extremely busy, tight residential mountain roads with grades of 10% or greater with 50km/h signs, and long, wide open straight and level stretches of roads labeled as 30km/h max. There are even novelty signs placed by the city. These are upside down yield signs with pictures of musical fountains on them in the middle of an extremely busy roundabout. What the fuck are the construction companies and the cities of Langford, Millstream, Colwood, and Glen Lake thinking?!?!?! There is some extremely confusing, and brutal signage. Dumb.


3 thoughts on “DRL’s and Road Signs

  1. or you can drive a subaru and just leave your lights on 24/7 😉 auto-off feature is nice! I like this article because as a professional driver, I drive a lot of kilometers. I see this happen DAILY.

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