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Cars need daytime lights at the back too | Axon's Automotive Anorak

25th March 2022
Gary Axon

As if to prove the point, and help resolve this dangerous and commonplace mystery, when I followed a ‘blind’ 18-plated VW Tiguan in to a petrol forecourt to refuel, I mentioned to the young lady at the next pump that her tail lights were not on. Looking at me initially as if I was mad, she walked to the back of the Volkswagen to see that it was in full darkness.

anorak_cars_daytime_running_lights_goodwood_25032022_01.jpg

Despite a full moon and the sun slowly raising at around 5:30 am, visibility on the roads was virtually at zero. The fog got thicker the further north I drove. This shouldn’t have been a problem, where it not for the staggering and frightening number of vehicles foolishly displaying no rear lights at all, never mind switching on their fog lamps to show they were there!

This alarming display of mindless motoring mostly seemed to affect the more modern cars on the road, which when they passed me (usually travelling far too fast for the challenging reduced visibility road conditions) had their headlamps ablaze, but with no tail lights showing what so ever.

As the fog lifted a little (though still not enough to merit driving blind) it took a short while for the penny to drop. Why were so many new-ish cars belting along without their tail lights illuminated?

Giving the occasional flash or quickly switching my fog lamps on and off to warn ‘invisible’ drivers just resulted in other motorists flashing me, without realising that they couldn’t be seen in the fog until the last moment.

anorak_cars_daytime_running_lights_goodwood_25032022_02.jpg

As if to prove the point, and help resolve this dangerous and commonplace mystery, when I followed a ‘blind’ 18-plated VW Tiguan in to a petrol forecourt to refuel, I mentioned to the young lady at the next pump that her tail lights were not on. Looking at me initially as if I was mad, she walked to the back of the Volkswagen to see that it was in full darkness.

“That’s odd,’ she said, ‘as the lights come on automatically when you switch the ignition on. I’ve owned this car for four years,” she giggled worryingly, “and I always assumed that ALL of the lights light up automatically!” 

Ah ha, case solved. For the last five years or so, all new cars sold in the UK are equipped with ‘daylight running lights’ at the front, but stupidly, not the rear! Based on the majority of cars innocently driving on thick fog without any rear lighting at all, I wonder how many drivers don’t realise that their tail lights don’t automatically switch on when the ignition comes on? Very alarming, and potentially very unsafe too!

anorak_cars_daytime_running_lights_goodwood_25032022_03.jpg

Daylight running lights were invented by Saab in 1969 and fitted to all models sold in Scandinavia, this sensible safety device later being adopted by fellow Swedes Volvo in 1975, long before being rolled out to all other vehicles in very recent times. Unlike the Saab and Volvo system though, which automatically turned on all lighting, both front and rear, for some crazy, inexplicable reason, modern cars equipped with automated illumination only usually illuminate the frontal lights, with the lighting control stalk/switch, needing to be manually turned on to make the rear lights work!

It’s bad enough having the occasional slow-moving Honda Jazz and Nissan Micra (to typecast certain driver types) driving blissfully driving along in perfect, sunny daylight conditions with their fog lamps ablaze. At least they can be seen (from a great distance), whereas motorists naively thinking they are fully illuminated in their new Audis, Peugeots, Range Rovers, Vauxhalls, et al, is far more dangerous.

So, a passionate plea to the motor industry please for common sense and safety’s sake. Going forward, when fitting automatic lighting to your vehicles, please can you ensure that ALL lights become illuminated, not only at the front, but vitally at the rear as well. Thank you, and rant over…

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