Canada to Address 'Phantom Vehicles' Not Illuminated From Behind

Daytime running lights have created a new problem: People forget to turn their lights on at night.

Traffic On M25 Motorway, England, UK
Tim Graham—Tim Graham/Getty Images

The Canadian government intends to do something about so-called "phantom vehicles" whose taillights aren't illuminated in the dark, according to a recent CBC report.

Most cars these days are equipped with daytime running lights. This, in addition to the modern trend of instrument panels that light up anytime the car is on, have created a new safety issue. Drivers often see their gauges, see ahead of them by the light of their daytime running lights, and drive off into the night, completely unilluminated from behind. 

In 1989, Canada became the first country to mandate daytime running lights on all cars on all roads, all year round. Studies since then have shown that daytime running lights have reduced two-vehicle crashes by between 5 and 15 percent. 

But the studies don't address this new problem, which is a direct result of the daytime running light requirement. They are not required in the U.S., but most manufacturers equip cars with them anyway, both for safety and for one less difference between American- and Canadian-spec cars.

According to a memo obtained by the CBC, Transport Canada has proposed three possible solutions. Manufacturers will need to install either automatic lighting systems or rear daytime running lights, or not illuminate the dashboard unless the headlights are on. 

Though rear daytime running lights have not been proven to provide any safety benefit during the day, they would at least make sure a vehicle can be seen from behind if the driver forgets to turn on their regular headlights.

Though a reasonable requirement, implementation has been delayed because manufacturers also want the Canadian government to officially update its requirements and test processes to permit new types of lighting systems. They could not reach a consensus on this subject within the original 75-day comment period, so the new regulations are scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2020.

If the widespread use of daytime running lights in the United States is any indication, there's a fairly good chance that whatever the Canadians end up requiring will spread here as well. That's good news, as phantom vehicles are a widespread problem here as well. 

If we're lucky, maybe some of the new lighting systems, such as fiber optics or even lasers, will end up being permitted here as well. I want cars with fricking laser beams attached to their headlights.