Laws for daytime driving lights

Written by lisa magloff
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Laws for daytime driving lights
Most new cars sold in the United States are fitted with automatic daytime lights. (close-up of car headlight image by Lario Tus from

The laws on daytime driving lights, also known as daytime running lights, differ from country to country. Studies have found that keeping lights on during the day can reduce head-on collisions, front-corner collisions and left turn crashes. The first country to require daytime running lights was Finland, where they became mandatory in some areas in 1972. They are not yet mandatory in the United States, but are a common feature on many vehicles.

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Laws in Europe

In 2008, the European Commission introduced a directive making daytime running lights mandatory on all new cars, vans, trucks and buses by August 2012. All new vehicles sold from that time will have to be fitted with daytime running lights, which turn on automatically when the engine starts. Cars already on the road do not have to have daytime running lights fitted, and there will be no Europe-wide requirement for cars to turn their headlights on during the day, although many countries in Europe already require this.


Scandinavian countries were the first to adopt mandatory use of daytime running lights. Finland made their use mandatory year-round in all areas in 1982, while Sweden began requiring them in 1977, Norway in 1986, Iceland in 1988 and Denmark in 1990. Cars in these countries that are not fitted with daytime running lights need to keep their headlights on at all times.

United States and Canada

Canada requires all vehicles to be fitted with automatic daytime running lights. No state in the United States requires daytime running lights, but many states require drivers to turn their headlights on during the day when visibility becomes poor, for example, when it is raining. However, daytime running lights are a standard feature on many new vehicles sold in the United States, such as all models of General Motors, Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo. General Motors (GM) also manufacturers a retrofit kit for both GM and non-GM vehicles that do not have daytime running lights.

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