What is daytime running lights in cars? Why are DRL importan

What is daytime running lights in cars? Modern vehicles have so many sophisticated features that the average driver doesn’t even know half of them and how they function. Throw in several acronyms, and it quickly becomes more confusing. With that said, many of our readers are asking, “what is DRL on a car?”

If you’re looking for a quick answer, DRL means Daytime Running Lights (also called Daytime Running Lamps). These are lighting devices that come with modern vehicles, and they help improve your car’s visibility.

What Is Daytime Running Lights In Cars?

Daytime running lights have been around for decades, but have only been a legal requirement for new cars launched in Europe and the UK since February 2011. This doesn’t mean all cars sold new since 2011 will have DRLs, though, as cars that had been designed and launched before this date didn’t have to have them, nor did they have to be redesigned to feature them.

What is daytime running lights in cars

Daytime running lights are intended to make it easier for other road users to spot a car; they are not intended (or bright enough) to illuminate the road, as this is what your headlights are for. DRLs switch on automatically when a car is started, and switch off when you turn on your headlights or turn off the car.

Front-facing DRLs are required by law, however, rear-facing ones are not. If your car does have DRLs fitted in the rear, they will be a red colour and work in conjunction with the front ones, which are white.

You should still always switch on your regular headlights when there is reduced visibility. If visibility is severely restricted, you may also need to turn on your fog lights (if fitted).

What is the Purpose of Daytime Running Lights?

The purpose of DRLs is not to illuminate the view in front of your car. Instead, they make your car more visible to the drivers and pedestrians you’re approaching. Consequently, they point forward rather than downward as headlights and fog lights do.

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DRLs perform most effectively when the ambient sunlight is dim — dusk, twilight, cloudy days, and so forth. That’s the reason Scandinavian countries, with notoriously short days, were eager to mandate them.

An unintended benefit (at least for carmakers) of DRLs is that they are another avenue for branding. That’s where the term “signature lights” comes into play. Audi pioneered creating a distinctive DRL pattern for most of its lineup. Moreover, DRLs give your car or truck a more technical and expensive look.

How Do You Use Daytime Running Lights?

There’s not much of a learning curve needed here. DRLs operate all on their own. They illuminate when you engage the ignition and extinguish when the headlights activate. The driver has no real control over operating DRLs because there is no DRL on-off switch.

Under limited conditions, like when parked with the engine running, your vehicle may provide a method for extinguishing the DRLs. However, the procedures vary from model to model.

Why Are Daytime Running Lights Important?

Daytime running lights are essential for several reasons, including:

  • Increased visibility. As mentioned earlier, daytime running lights improve visibility on the road. It can help prevent accidents, particularly during the daytime when collisions are more likely. With DRLs, other drivers can see your vehicle from a greater distance, even in harsh weather conditions like fog, rain, or snow.
  • Reduced risk of accidents. A US study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that vehicles equipped with DRLs had a 5.7% lower rate of multiple-vehicle crashes during daylight hours than vehicles without DRLs. In Canada, where DRLs have been mandatory since 1989, studies have shown a reduction in daytime collisions of up to 11%.
  • Improved fuel efficiency. Many modern cars use LED lights for daytime running lights, which consume less power than traditional halogen bulbs. It can lead to slightly improved fuel efficiency, as the car’s battery and alternator do not have to work as hard to power the lights.
  • Legal requirements. In some countries, including Canada, the European Union, and Australia, DRLs are a legal requirement for all new vehicles. DRLs are not mandatory in the US, but many car manufacturers have voluntarily installed them on their vehicles. It is essential to check your local laws to see if DRLs are mandatory.

When Should You Use Daytime Running Lights?

While daytime running lights are to be used during the daytime, there are certain situations when it’s not a good idea to leave them on. For example, they may not be necessary during periods of low visibility due to fog, rain, or snow, as they can create glare and reduce your ability to see the road ahead. You should use your regular headlights or fog lights if equipped in these situations.

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What is daytime running lights in cars

Additionally, it’s important to note that daytime running lights do not turn on your taillights, so they are insufficient for use during nighttime driving. In fact, in some countries, using daytime running lights as a substitute for headlights at night is illegal.

Another essential thing to note is that turning off the daytime running lights is possible. However, this is not recommended, as it can reduce visibility and safety on the road. If you need to turn off the DRLs, it’s vital to ensure that the headlights are turned on instead.

What Are The Benefits Of Daytime Running Lights?

DRLs increase your visibility on the road, and this should lead to lower accident numbers. Numerous studies have found this to be the case.

Studies in the US and Canada estimated that accident rates for cars that had DRLs fitted reduced by 5.7 – 7%. The European Commission released a consultation paper in 2010 which estimated that road fatalities could be reduced by 3 – 5% annually if DRLs were fitted to all cars.

The UK government also references research which says that road accidents and fatalities could be reduced by up to 6%.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Daytime Running Lights?

There have been concerns that drivers may incorrectly assume that because their front DRLs are illuminated, their rear lights will be on as well, as happens with sidelights; yet with rear DRLs not mandatory this can cause a situation where a car is driving with no rear illumination, despite the fact it may be hard to spot due to the conditions.

Research from the RAC in 2018 found that 62% of drivers had encountered cars in dull, overcast conditions driving with no rear lights on, and while automatic headlights (which use sensors to turn on when low light levels are detected) may mitigate this issue, it remains the case that it is not unusual to spot a car with no rear lights on, when they are arguably required.

Do Daytime Running Lights Make My Car Use More Fuel?

Not to any meaningful or degree. DRLs use low powered bulbs which in most cases are low-energy LED-type units. LEDs use significantly less power than traditional halogen bulbs and the impact on your fuel consumption is negligible.

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Government stats place the increased energy usage at around 0.5% for cars that still use the older non-LED bulbs. LEDs will be a fraction of that figure.

What Cars Have Daytime Running Lights?

Any new car sold from February 2011-on in Europe and the UK will have daytime running lights fitted as standard.

What is daytime running lights in cars

These will either be standalone items installed in the front of the car or integrated into the headlamp unit. Some cars use their existing position lamps in a lower intensity setting as DRLs.

Rear daytime driving lights are not mandatory so not all manufacturers fit them and you are most likely to find rear DRLs on pricier luxury cars.

If your car was not originally sold with DRLs, there is no legal requirement to have them retro-fitted. It is legal to do so if you wish, however, the aftermarket DRLs need to have the letters ‘RL’ embossed on the lamp to ensure that they have been approved to the correct European legislation.

The DRLs should be installed in such a way that they switch off when the headlamps are turned on, if not they need to be turned off manually at night to avoid dazzling other road users.

Do Daytime Running Lights Need Replacing?

The LED bulbs found in almost all DRLs these days have a very long lifespan – long enough to last as long as your car. They are maintenance free items, however in the case of an accident or potential malfunction they might need replacing.

The cost of this depends on the make and model of your vehicle. You can change the DRL bulbs on a Volvo XC90 in your own driveway, which means you would only have to pay for the bulb itself.

Cars with DRL lights that are integrated into the existing headlight unit may require a visit to the dealer to repair. This will add a labour cost and might also entail the replacement of some pricier components.


What’s the point of daytime running lights?

 The purpose of DRLs is not to illuminate the view in front of your car. Instead, they make your car more visible to the drivers and pedestrians you’re approaching. Consequently, they point forward rather than downward as headlights and fog lights do.

Should daytime running lights always be on?

Daytime running lights are a nice feature, but you don’t need to turn your lights on at all during daylight hours, unless you have your wipers on.

What is the disadvantage of daytime running lights?

LED DRLs, or daytime running lights, have the following disadvantages or issues: LED DRLs can cause battery drain. Since all lights, including LED DRLs, deplete the car battery, they can cause your car battery to drain if they are left on for too long. LED DRLs are expensive to replace.

Above is information about What is daytime running lights in cars? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of What is the purpose of daytime running lights? Thank you for reading our post.

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