Lights on!

The winter months officially began and all drivers are now required to turn on headlights when driving on inter-city roads

traffic in jerusalem_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
traffic in jerusalem_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Conspicuity and visibility are the name of the game when you are out to prevent road accidents.
That is why since 1996, turning on your headlights during winter months has been required by law.
Yesterday, Thursday, November 1, the winter months officially began and all drivers are now required to turn on headlights when driving on inter-city roads. Bus drivers, taxi drivers and truck drivers must keep their headlights on city roads as well as inter-city roads.
As in previous years, the requirement will remain in effect through March 31. Motorcyclists are required to keep their lights on all year round.
The prospect of a NIS 100 fine and accumulating two points on one’s driving record – which can raise insurance premiums and bring drivers closer to having their license suspended – is reason enough to turn on lights during the day.
But drivers should also understand that turning on lights during the winter months saves lives. This message is particularly pertinent as the nation prepares to honor the 31,544 Israelis killed in road accidents since the establishment of the state. The annual remembrance ceremony for victims of road accidents will take place Monday in Ramat Gan.
Dozens of studies of what is called in the road safety jargon “daytime running lights,” or DRLs, have shown that the added visibility results in fewer deaths and injuries.
Studies conducted in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark have provided the most impressive results.
By keeping on lights during the day, crashes involving two or more vehicles and those involving a car and either a pedestrian or a cyclist were reduced by between 10 and 20 percent.
Studies in Canada and Hungary have also found significant improvement in road safety thanks to DRLs.
Admittedly, in comparison to Scandinavia and other northerly places such as Canada, where ambient light levels are low in the winter, the impact of DRLs in places like Israel, which tends to be sunny even in the winter, might be less dramatic.
Nevertheless, a 2003 study titled “A Review of Daytime Running Lights” conducted in Australia – which has similar winter weather conditions to those of Israel – recommended the widespread use of DRLs, noting that “the greatest benefits are with the more severe accidents, including head-on and intersection crashes and collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.”
Critics of DRLs claim that keeping lights on during the day is an unnecessary waste of energy, particularly since this means tail lamps (which have not been found to reduce accidents during the day) are needlessly illuminated. Also, unless the DRLs are especially equipped for daytime driving, they tend to be less effective since most light is directed at the road. And keeping your lights on during the day might result in the increased frequency of burnt bulbs, which in turn might increase the number of vehicles on the road with only one headlight working.
The ideal solution would be to adopt EU standards, which, starting in February 2011, will require all new passenger cars and small delivery vans to come equipped with DRLs designed specifically for daytime use. These DRLs are directed not at the road but at other vehicles and pedestrians. And taillights remain off. As a result, they use less wattage to attain the same visibility as the conventional headlight.
This makes them more energy efficient than simply turning your old headlights on, and less likely to cause glare. In Europe the preferred bulb for DRLs is LED, which can provide an appropriate amount of light without significantly increasing fuel consumption and emissions.
Since most cars imported to Israel come from Europe, it would be relatively easy to adopt EU standards and ensure that all new cars are equipped with these DRLs.
But this would not provide a solution for the cars already on the road. Under the circumstances, turning on yours lights during the day is the best solution.
Doing so might increase transportation costs slightly – Transport Canada estimated an annual cost for fuel and changing bulbs of $40 – but if even one life is saved as a result, it will have been worth it.