The Chronology of Daytime Running Lights






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Last updated

 13 December 2010



To assess the validity of DRL, it is necessary to review the origins of daytime lights:


In 1976, on the basis principally of the findings of Andersson et al 1976's Finnish study, the Nordic Road Safety Council (NTR) recommended that Denmark, Norway and Sweden mandate daytime running lights for motorcars.


In 1977 Sweden did so.  But Denmark decided, also in 1977, to mandate daytime running lights, by way of a 'pilot', for motorcycles first. Lund 1979 then conducted a monitoring study of the effect of the Danish motorcycle law. But embarrassingly, Lund found as a result of the law a slight increase, not the expected decrease, of motorcycle accidents. [No academic study has ever since mentioned Lund 1979's finding, or included Lund 1979 in its list of references. 


Eventually in 1990 the Danish Government ignored Lund 1979's finding, and mandated daytime running lights for motorcars.]


DRL in the form of bright 18 watt parking lights were adopted by the Swedish nation when they changed from driving on the left hand side of the road to the right in 1967. This was a sensible measure, but accidents continued to occur so in 1977 they found it necessary to use full power dipped (or passing beam) headlights to remind people to drive on the right hand side of the road.


As “safety sells” DRL were used as a good marketing gimmick to enhance Sweden’s reputation as making safe cars.  But they neglected to consider the negative effects on vulnerable road users and the environment, despite employing several academics to write favourable reports.


In 1995 Theeuwes & Riemersma 1995 published the first major academic adverse criticism of the conclusions in favour of motorcar daytime running lights of a leading international study (Andersson & Nilsson 1981's study of  Sweden's 1977 law mandating that all vehicles use daytime running lights)


In 1997 the USA’s Highway Loss Data Institute analysed pre and post DRL accidents which indicated a 3.7% increase.  This confidential report has been suppressed.


During 2000, the State of Victoria Australia reported on motorcycle daytime lights and concluded they were dangerous.

In 2004, on the basis of the findings of Koornstra et al 1997, Elvik et al 2003, Brouwer et al 2004, etc Commandeur 2004 recommended to the EU that it mandate daytime running lights for motorcars.  The decision of the European Commission on the recommendation is pending.

At the end of 2004, NHTSA may have been moved by the findings of Tessmer 2004 to consider initiating the process whereby the USA may mandate daytime running lights for motorcars.  The decision of NHTSA how to respond to the findings is pending.

In 2004, in the interest of motorcycle safety, the Japanese Government publicly broke ranks with other Governments who might support the mandatory use of motorcar daytime running lights, and rejected the implementation of such a law in Japan.

The Japanese Government also broke ranks with academic authors in Sweden and the USA who support a Global Technical Regulation that permits the fitting of daytime running lights of 1500 candlepower to motorcars.


The conclusion is that the EU Commission is trying to impose DRL on the world simply because Sweden changed from driving on the left hand side to the right hand side of the road and is neglecting to consider the environmental damage and dangers to vulnerable road users.