Do daytime running lights prevent car crashes?

Traffic

News Channel 8 viewer Keti emailed Traffic Reporter Meredyth Censullo and asked,

Why don’t people use their car’s daytime running lights, especially when they’re automatic? Hasn’t it been proven they save lives?

Daytime running lights (DRL) are low-intensity headlights that operate anytime a vehicle’s running.

Canada and many European countries require them, but the United States doesn’t. Because of the mandates, European automakers, and most U.S. automakers, include DRLs as standard features on all models. Other U.S. automakers include DRLs on some models. 

Because the lights are not mandated in the U.S., drivers have the choice to use them or not. Most models provide the option to have the lights come on automatically, but the feature can be turned off by the vehicle’s driver. 

In 2008 a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study examined the impact of DRLs against three types of crrashes: 
(1) two-passenger vehicle crashes excluding rear-end crashes; 
(2) single-passenger-vehicle to pedestrians/cyclists crashes; and 
(3) single passenger-vehicle to motorcycle crashes. 

Each crash type was examined at three crash severity levels—fatal, injury and all severity. The analysis found that DRLs have no statistically significant overall effects on the three target crashes. When combining these three target crashes into one target crash, the DRL effects were also not statistically significant.

When examined separately for passenger cars and light trucks/vans (LTVs), DRLs in LTVs significantly reduced LTVs’ involvements in the target two-vehicle crashes by 5.7 percent. However, the remaining DRL effects on these three target crashes were not statistically significant. 

The study noted that, at the time, it was conducted based on statistics from just nine states, and featured a limited number of vehicle models. Because there haven’t been any comprehensive studies in more than a decade in the U.S., more data needs to be collected and examined.

Nonetheless, the Florida Highway Patrol recommends drivers who have vehicles with DRLs to use them, because they make you more visible to other drivers. 

If you aren’t sure if your car has DRLs or not, or if you don’t know how to activate/deactivate them, check your owner’s manual. For vehicles that aren’t equipped with DRLs, there are retrofit kits available online and through car dealerships and autobody shops. The prices vary depending on the type of DRLs and vehicle they’re going on. 

To read the 2008 NHTSA study, visit this link.

Send your Road Rant questions to Meredyth at mcensullo@wfla.com or contact her on Facebook at WFLAMeredyth.

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