The last few weeks out on the roads have had a recurring theme for me – lights, or more specifically the shocking lack of them.
Driving home in the gathering gloom in the days immediately before the clocks went back, I was shocked by the number of cars I saw driving apparently without lights. The more I saw, the more I noticed, until it became something of an obsession. Travelling across the country at the weekend with my husband, we saw more examples than I care to count.
The recent spell of chilly, damp and foggy weather has made me even more conscious of the risks.
I will hold my hands up and say there have been a handful of times when I have been guilty of driving into the evening and failing to notice the change in the light levels or put my lights on soon enough. I’m the first to admit no one is perfect.
But when I came upon a Fiat 500 driving at speed into the dusk on a busy dual carriageway, without any rear lights on, I started to think about the appalling consequences that not being seen could lead to. A rear end shunt or a side swipe from someone changing lanes or merging onto the main road from a junction- are all it would take to change lives forever.
As I passed the car, I realised that the front beams were visible, so it wasn’t necessarily a case of the lights not working or not being turned on. More a fact that the daytime running lights had made the driver far less aware of the conditions than perhaps they should be.
A quick trip to the gov.uk website gave me some useful facts. Daytime running lights are proven to reduce multiple vehicle daytime collisions and fatalities – which has to be a good thing for road safety. They became law for all cars and light goods vehicles in 2011 and all large vehicles and buses from 2012.
The important point for me is that they are automatic. As drivers, we get so used to the fact they’re activated when the engine starts that we forget to think about it. So, in low or declining light conditions the risk is that as drivers we all think we’re more visible – front and rear – than we really are.
I asked our head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, for some advice and tips and here’s what he said:
Often on a modern vehicle the instrument panel is illuminated as we turn the ignition on and bright daytime running lights give the impression of headlights being on. Make it part of your routine to check what systems you require; auto lights and wipers are great but you or another user may have changed the setting and they may be switched off. Be prepared to act early and beat the system to switch them on, remember they are there as an aid, not to take over.
Remember to check your lights regularly, along with windows, mirrors and number plates. It’s impossible to know if your rear lights are working while you’re driving. Make it a part of your weekly checks to keep them clean and in good working order.
Remember OAP –Observe the light levels before you start your journey, anticipate when you may need more than daytime running lights and plan to turn them on at the right time. Stay aware when you’re driving – particularly at this time of year, light and visibility levels can change quickly.
Have a look at our POWDERY checks to make sure your vehicle is safe and ready for you to drive.
By Kate Tonge, IAM RoadSmart director of marketing and communications