Driving with Lights on at Daytime

Lights on Campaign

At the launch of the several Road Safety Campaigns, the Department of Transport has urged motorists to drive with their headlamps on during the day. Motorists were urged to keep the headlamps of vehicles on the dipped beam and demonstrate their commitment and support of the Arrive Alive's ‘Lights on the campaign.’

It is important to understand the merits behind this request. Several international studies have proven that the correct implementation of such a strategy could indeed assist in reducing deaths on the roads.

International Research

Even though circumstances and environmental conditions might differ the following international studies have provided noteworthy findings in countries where daytime running lights are used in vehicles:

  • In Denmark in 1990 two studies evaluated the daytime running lights law, one that assessed short-term effects, the other looking at longer-term effects. Results of these two studies were quite consistent. There was a small reduction in daytime multiple-vehicle crashes (7 per cent) in the first year and 3 months the law was in effect, with one type of daytime running lights relevant crash (left turn in front of the oncoming vehicle) reduced by 37 per cent. In the second study, which covered 2 years and 9 months of the law, there was a 6-per cent reduction in daytime multiple-vehicle crashes, and a 34-per cent reduction in left-turn crashes. There was a small reduction in motor vehicle-cyclist collisions (4 per cent) but a statistically significant increase (16 per cent) in motor vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

  • In a study in Canada comparing 1990 model year vehicles (required to have daytime running lights ) with 1989 vehicles, a statistically significant 11-per cent reduction in daytime multiple-vehicle crashes other than rear-end impacts was estimated. This estimate was adjusted to take into account the fact that about 29 per cent of 1989 vehicles were fitted with daytime running lights.

  • In 1994 Avis, Inc. announced the results of a traveller-safety study analyzing the incidence and degree of damage to cars equipped with daytime running lights; the study showed a significantly greater degree of damage to those without daytime running lights. Those equipped with daytime running lights have their headlights on at all times and are more visible to other drivers. During the day, they are on at an 80% power level; in the dark, they operate at 100%.

Arguments in favour of the “Lights on” Campaign

  •  It is easier to see cars in low light situations – especially oncoming vehicles

  • It is easier to spot cars in the glare, shade, dusk, etc. when the vehicles drive with their lights on

  • Your attention is grabbed a bit faster and it gives a few splits seconds more to react, adjust etc – split seconds that could make a difference in dangerous situations

South African Conditions

  •  In South Africa, approximately 40% of fatalities are pedestrian deaths

  • Many informal settlements in South Africa are situated next to highways –thereby increasing the risk of further pedestrian fatalities.

  • Children attending schools in rural communities walk several kilometres next to the roads to and from their schools

Various studies have shown that “driving with lights on” can improve the noticeability and detectability of vehicles in the central and peripheral fields of view. Commitment to the “Lights on Campaign” could not only enhance visibility but also remind all motorists at all times of the dangers to road safety, and the measures that we need to take to avoid these dangers.