You may have noticed that for a while now, certain new cars – like Audis – have featured eyebrow-shaped rows of bright LED lights below their headlamps. These rather odd-looking rows of lights are not a trendy new form of sidelight – they are Daytime Running Lights (DRLs).
As you might guess, DRLs are the brainchild of the EU and are now a legal requirement on all new cars, starting February 2011. Although driving with lights on will seem new to UK drivers, some European countries have had rules requiring drivers to drive with dipped headlights at all times for some years now.
There will not be any requirement for existing cars to be fitted with DRLs or to drive with their headlights on in the UK, but all new cars will be sold with DRLs that will be permanently illuminated whenever the engine is running.
The logic behind DRLs is that in certain driving conditions, approaching cars can be hard to see – even in the daytime. DRLs are designed to combat this problem and various studies have shown over the years that they do actually lead to a reduction in accidents and casualties. I know that sceptics will say that if you can’t see a car coming towards you in daylight, you shouldn’t be driving, but it isn’t always that simple and vehicles with lights on are easier to see.
Historically, one of the criticisms of DRLs has been that they increase fuel consumption by increasing the load on the alternator (which generates electricity using engine power) at all times. This is true with conventional car headlights but will probably not apply to DRLs, as most manufacturers are expected to follow Audi’s lead and use LED lighting for their DRLs.
LED lights use much less power than conventional headlight bulbs, meaning that they do not have an adverse effect on fuel consumption. LEDs also last much longer than normal bulbs, meaning that they might well last the whole lifetime of the car. DRLs will not be linked to cars’ tail lights or dashboard lighting – these will remain switched off unless the driver switches the car’s headlights on.
What do you think about DRLs? Is it a useful safety measure or is the EU just introducing needless red tape?