Before sunrise, after sunset and also in bad weather, phantom vehicles can create visibility issues for other drivers. Phantom vehicles are virtually invisible from behind because their rear lights aren’t on, even though the driver may assume their daytime running lights are also engaged.

It used to be a dim instrument panel reminded motorists that their headlights weren’t engaged. Now, dashboards can be lit without exterior lights being fully illuminated. Some motorists, however, assume their daytime running lights include rear illumination.

“We’re mandatory to have the front lights on, but not necessarily the back,” said Christine Niemczyk, CAA Saskatchewan’s Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations. “So, we call those vehicles that don’t have exterior lights on ‘phantom vehicles’ when they’re driving in the dark. So please check again, your lights and make sure the front and the rear lights are on.”

Niemczyk noted it’s important to be seen by other drivers.

“The same is very true for pedestrians, including students, this time of year,” she added. “You want to make sure they can see, so don’t obstruct their visibility, and they can be seen by other motorists and pedestrians as well.”

She said research shows automatic daytime running lights on all new vehicles reduces crash incidence by up to 15 percent during the day.

As of 2021, all new cars sold in Canada will be required to be more visible in low-light conditions, by having one of three features: Daytime running lights and taillights that turn on when the instrument panel is illuminated, and the vehicle is in operation; Headlights, taillights, and side marker lights that automatically turn on in low-light conditions; An instrument panel that remains dark until the driver manually turns on all the lights.

This isn’t the first time Canada has led the way with regard to vehicle lighting standards. In 1989, we were the first country to require automatic DRL on all new vehicles, buoyed by research showing that it could reduce crash incidence by up to 15 percent during the day.

For cars lacking an automatic option, CAA suggests, keeping your headlights on when driving is the safest bet.

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