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I see a lot of vehicles on the road at night that have no tail lights on. From countless observations I've made, this is usually due to the vehicle having decently bright daytime running headlights (DRL), and a bright dashboard display (you'd think a bright dashboard would be an indicator your car is in daytime mode). Sometimes the fancier the car, the more likely people seem to miss this step as the DRLs are much brighter.

It seems like the driver is thinking that because they can see the road and their instruments, they don't realize they don't actually have their night-time lighting fully on. I've tried to flash these people and maybe like <1% of people turn their lights on, but otherwise people just think I'm getting agro with them so I don't really do it anymore. Their lack of safety isn't worth my hassle. This is also in L.A. so I think all the additional lighting doesn't clue them in as well unless they go down a dark street, then I'll usually see them turn on.

AFAIK, DRLs were created for safety. I guess somehow cars weren't easy to see in the day time(?!), so they added always-on headlights. Okay sure, but I've almost always have been able to see a car during the day. However at night, sometimes these little shadow monsters come flying out of nowhere and unless directly blocking your view from a lit up road/building/etc, you wouldn't even notice it was there. Particularly dangerous on the freeways.

Why would manufacturers just make DRLs brighter over time, but never also introduce at least a somewhat dim tail light in case the operator is not educated or careful enough to properly enable the full lighting system when it's actually necessary? It can't be that much extra cost. Maybe because the gov't hasn't told them to (yet)?

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  • I would think simply because cars moving away from you don't tend to run you over? You typically don't worry about vehicle moving away from you in the daytime. And because they are "technically" for daytime usage and there is a full complement of lights for running at night, there's no real need for the rear to be lit during the day. I mean, I get your point about stupid drivers not turning their lights on at night ... You can only hope there's a cop around when you need one. Jan 25 at 1:56
  • I'm not sure which country you are in. Here in the UK, daytime running lights are still reasonably scarce, but automatic lights are more common - ones that come on when it gets dark enough.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 25 at 18:08
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2, frustratingly I've seen cops just ignore them. That's how little cops care about that stuff in a large city. They'd actually be more likely to pull over the person who was flashing the other driver from behind "for being a distraction to other drivers".
    – coblr
    Jan 25 at 21:59
  • @RoryAlsop, Sorry, I thought there was only one "L.A." i.e. Los Angeles California, USA. Wife and I had an interesting talk about this as she's from abroad and figures anyone would see "L.A." and know the one that's opposite "N.Y." New York.
    – coblr
    Jan 25 at 22:00
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    I always used to wonder at how the idiots could drive around without putting their proper lights on when it got dark. After all, when it's starting to get hard to read your dashboard instruments then it's probably about time to switch your lights on isn't it. Then one evening I was driving around in a Vauxhall that had an always-illuminated dash and I suddenly realised I was one of those idiots...
    – Andy Hames
    Jan 26 at 18:43

1 Answer 1

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AFAIK, DRLs were created for safety. I guess somehow cars weren't easy to see in the day time(?!), so they added always-on headlights. Okay sure, but I've almost always have been able to see a car during the day.

It was originally for Nordic/Scandinavian countries - where "day time" is pretty dim for significant portions of the year. And they were effective at improving visibility of other vehicles during the day there - sunny LA? Not so much.

However at night, sometimes these little shadow monsters come flying out of nowhere and unless directly blocking your view from a lit up road/building/etc, you wouldn't even notice it was there. Particularly dangerous on the freeways.

I must confess I'm puzzled at this - if you're looking at the back of the car then it's not driving towards you (unless they're reversing I suppose - but then the reversing lights would make the point moot). If we're talking about freeways then you're the one coming "flying" up on them, from behind, in the same direction. At that point Your own headlights should be doing a rather sterling job of illuminating what's in front of you. That's what they're there for.

Why would manufacturers just make DRLs brighter over time, but never also introduce at least a somewhat dim tail light in case the operator is not educated or careful enough to properly enable the full lighting system when it's actually necessary? It can't be that much extra cost. Maybe because the gov't hasn't told them to (yet)?

The increase in brightness in DRLs has come with their use in lighter environs (such as LA) vs where they were originally conceived for. In brighter places you need brighter DRLS for them to stand out. The safety benefits in brighter countries are still relatively small however.

In Scandinavia there are rear DRLs - and on some cars that are available in those countries it's possible to enable them regardless. Pretty much the reason why manufacturers haven't done it in a sweeping way is (as you put it) because "the gov't hasn't told them to"

When you're examining the question of mitigating those who are too incompetent to put their lights on when it's dark (or simply forget once in a while) the auto manufacturers have already got a better solution than enabling rear DRLs - automatic headlights. It's not an expensive bit of tech, has been around for decades and actually solves the problem rather than just reducing it.

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  • I guess it's hard to describe. The way street lights, bridges and flora are all lit up (or how they create darker than avg shadows w.in brighter areas, makes it easy for you to potentially not see someone in front of you, not right away at least. Headlights do, do a good job once you're close enough, but a black car with no tail lights that you can only really see popping in and out of shadows ahead of you a few lanes over (maybe also 10 or 20mph slower) just seems unsafe. Your answer makes sense, glad to see they do exist somewhere, wish I saw them get as much attention as DRLs.
    – coblr
    Jan 26 at 5:37

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