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driving concerns

Motorcycles have had daytime running lights for years, front and rear. Why not cars? I don't know anyone who has had an issue confusing the brake light with a normal running tail light, with regards to a motorcycle.

If you've ever suddenly come upon a darkened car at dusk or in a snow storm, you might think rear daytime running lights are a bright idea.

But Transport Canada nixed the idea 26 years ago because, they say, rear lights probably don't make roads safer when it's sunny.

"When front daytime running lights (DRL) were introduced in 1989, Transport Canada demonstrated that installing and operating the new lights would significantly reduce injuries and property damage from frontal collisions," the regulator said in an email. "At that time, it was not possible to justify the requirement for rear daytime running lights."

The point of front DRL is to make cars more visible — to other drivers and pedestrians — from further away. Most studies show they reduce daytime crashes. We didn't find studies looking at rear DRL.

When Canada required front lights on all new cars in the '80s. the U.S. didn't follow because of fears DRL would cause glare, make it harder to see pedestrians and cyclists and reduce fuel economy.

The idea of driving with low beams turned on during the day first became popular in the '70s in countries with long, dark winters. Finland first required them in rural areas in the winter in 1972 and saw a 27 per cent drop in multi-vehicle collisions. Since 2011, the EU has required dedicated DRL on all newly designed vehicles — but, again, only in the front.

"Tail lamps are too dim to attract attention in normal daylight, and therefore are highly unlikely to reduce accident risk in normal daylight," Transport Canada says. "This is not to deny that tail lamps are needed to mark a vehicle in low ambient light conditions."

In other words, cars need their taillights on when the light is lousy. And there's the problem of drivers not putting on their taillights at night because they don't realize that only their DRL are on.

Transport Canada says it's still reviewing possible solutions — it told us the same thing in 2012.

"Before introducing a new federal regulation, government policy requires that consideration be given to its costs and benefits," Transport Canada says.

One fix would be to require all cars to have automatic headlights that turn on — with taillights — when the light is low.

Because taillights don't come on with DRL, we should be driving with our low beams on during the day, period, says Young Drivers of Canada.

"You should drive with your lights on because 33 per cent of all collisions are rear-enders," says Angelo DiCicco, YDC general manager for the GTA. "You need to be visible."

In Nova Scotia, if you're driving a vehicle without DRL — even if you're just visiting from the U.S. — you have to keep your headlights on during the day.

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