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No Headlights

Drive anywhere at night you’re bound to see one or two vehicles with their headlights off emerging from the darkness. You can flash your high beams, and most of them still won’t realise they’re doing anything wrong. Maybe they’re confused about automatic headlight mode, or they forgot to turn the stalk. Or, maybe they’re just operating in what we used to call “Stealth Mode” as teens. Whatever the reason, vehicles driving in low-light conditions without their headlights on are dangerous. And the phenomenon is becoming increasingly common. But help is on the way.

Phantom Cars

Late last month, Transport Canada outlined details to eradicate the scourge of what it calls “phantom cars” (they read too many Hardy Boys books). The regulatory organisation believes that a failure to engage headlights in dark conditions is a mistake enabled by automakers. For example, some vehicles without automatic headlights will automatically illuminate the instrument panel in low-light conditions. This can lead drivers to assume that the headlights are engaged. While they may have daytime running lights engaged, their tail lights will be off – making their vehicle difficult to see from behind.

Headlight Regulations

On March 20, 2018,Transport Canada announced new regulations to combat “phantom cars”:

As of September 2021 the Canadian Vehicle Lighting Regulation will require that all new vehicles sold in Canada have one of the following:

-tail lights that come on automatically with daytime running lights

-headlights, tail lights, and side marker lights that turn on automatically in the dark

-a dashboard that stays dark to alert the driver to turn on the lights

Ostensibly, this isn’t a very aggressive stance from Transport Canada. Automatic headlights are inexpensive technology that has been around since the 1960s. And yet, automakers refuse to offer them as standard equipment because they can make money selling them as a feature. The only reason rear view cameras are standard is because the government made it mandatory. However, some brands have chosen to lead rather than follow.

Brighter Ideas

For example, many automakers are not just making automatic headlights standard, but also automatic high beams. Auto high beams engage at night when no traffic is present, but they switch off if the sensors detect oncoming and forward traffic. It’s easier than manual operation for drivers and prevents the ignorant from blinding their fellow drivers. Starting with the 2019 Fusion, Ford will actually be including this feature as standard equipment on all of its vehicles (along with a bunch of other technology).

At the end of the day, Transport Canada is taking steps to make the road brighter and safer for everyone. It may not be the most aggressive stance, but it will help guide the industry in the right direction. Now, if only they would do something about those GM vehicles that flash the reverse lights when the vehicle isn’t in reverse…


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