25th Jun 2022

EU cars to use daytime headlights from 2011

All cars in the EU will have to be equipped with headlights and rear-end lighting that shine in the daytime as of 7 February 2011, the European Commission said on Wednesday (24 September).

Trucks and buses will have to follow suit 18 months later, by August 2012.

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The commission says its decision is based on the observation that "in countries which have already made daytime running lights (DRL) obligatory, the experience in the field of road safety is very positive."

Daytime lights automatically switch on as soon as the engine is started, and go off when it gets dark and the driver turns on the headlights. Scandinavian countries were among the first to introduce them.

According to commission vice president Guenter Verheugen - in charge of enterprise and industry policy: "the introduction of DRL for cars, trucks and buses makes them more visible, which will increase road safety."

There are currently around 40,000 road casualties per year in the EU, and Brussels' objective is to halve this figure by 2010.

Additionally, because of their lower energy consumption - approximately 25-30 percent of the energy consumption of normal headlights - DRL are also considered to be more environmentally friendly.

"This [the introduction of daytime lights] will make a positive contribution to our goal of reducing fatalities on European roads whilst being more fuel efficient then existing lights," commissioner Verheugen said.

Plans already criticised

The news was not welcomed by everybody, however, and the car industry in particular has voiced concern at the proposal.

"There is a small risk that some drivers will forget to switch on their headlights at night. We think there could also be confusion among road users between these lights and front fog lamps," a spokesperson for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told the UK's Telegraph newspaper.

"Even though we accept this is supposed to be a safety measure, it could also add to carbon emissions exactly when car makers are under pressure from Brussels to cut them," he added.

Timothy Kirkhope, a British Conservative MEP, also said that what is aimed to be a measure increasing road safety could in fact increase the risk for pedestrians and cyclists.

"When the commission first mooted compulsory daytime running lights, MEPs were inundated with letters from cyclists concerned that daytime lights would make it more difficult for them to be seen," he stated.

"If all cars have lights on, there is a concern that drivers start looking out for lights, rather than pedestrians or cyclists," he stressed.

The parliamentarian also expressed concern regarding the environmentally friendly aspect of the DRL.

"At a time when we are pushing for reductions in the use of fuel and resultant emissions, we must be certain we are not causing extra carbon emissions without an additional benefit," said Mr Kirkhope, calling for an independent assessment of the measure before any EU legislation is approved.

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