Regulations for daytime running lights

Updated February 21, 2017

Using daytime running lights (or lights that automatically turn on during daytime hours) when operating a motor vehicle is required in some countries especially if visibility is naturally low during the day. Some car companies, such as General Motors, have begun installing automatic daytime running lights on its newer makes and models. Daytime running lights can increase safety for vehicles on the road by allowing them to be seen, regardless of natural visibility.


The purpose of daytime running lights (DRLs) is to prevent accidents on the road during the daytime hours, in which the natural ambient light is low, by requiring all vehicles to have either hard-wired lights that automatically turn on when the engine turns over or by requiring all drivers to manually turn their headlights on while driving during daytime hours. In 1993, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved the use of daytime running lights on highways and roads; however, it did not make them mandatory.

The Progression

Daytime running lights were first required by law in Scandinavia in the early 1970s, due in part to the fact that, even during daylight hours, the ambient light is not bright enough for all motorists to see the road. In 1977, Sweden followed the example of Scandinavia and required all vehicles on the road during daylight hours to be equipped with daytime running lights. Norway was the next country to mandate daytime running lights in 1986, followed by Iceland in 1988 and Denmark in 1990. In Canada, all new automobiles built after 1989 are now required to have daytime running lights. General Motors, who has long been in support of daytime running light laws in the United States, now offers them as a standard feature. Other car companies also offer DRLs as standard features, including Toyota, Saab and Volkswagen.

Europe And Australia

In 2008, the European Commission passed a law stating that all passenger cars and delivery vans built from Febuary 2011 onwards must be equipped with daytime running lights. By August of 2012, the European Commission will require all trucks and buses to be properly equipped with daytime running lights as well. In 1992, Australia attempted to make hard-wired daytime running lights mandatory on all motorcycles. However, this requirement only lasted for four years. In 1996, the Motorcycle Council of New South Whales applied pressure to the Federal Government and eventually convinced them that requiring hard-wired daytime running lights on motorcycles should not be mandatory.

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About the Author

Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.