When the sun goes down, the phantom vehicles come out. It’s an increasingly common occurrence to see cars being driven at night with no taillights on, and the cause is technology. In most late-model vehicles, turning on (or leaving on) daytime running lights causes the dashboard lights to light up, giving drivers the false impression that behind them the taillights are lit up as well. In many vehicles, however, this is not the case. Transport Canada has decided to take on the scourge of “phantom vehicles” and eliminate potentially dangerous situations.
Starting September 1, 2021, all new vehicles sold in Canada must be visible, in front as in back, when outside conditions are dark. To sell a vehicle in this country, manufacturers will be required to equip it with one of the following features, according to Transport Canada:
• Have daytime running lights and taillights come on when the vehicle instrument panel is illuminated and the vehicle is in operation;
• Automatically turn on the headlights, taillights, and side marker lights in low-light conditions; or
• Keep the driver’s instrument panel dark so the driver knows to turn on all the lights.
Responsibility for being visible on the roads remains, as always, with the driver of a vehicle. However, many, very many, of us have been loudly decrying the fact that a vehicle can be driven simultaneously with its dashboard lit up and the taillights turned off. This sends a potentially misleading signal to the driver.
On this point, there’s little question that the automakers have erred; the new measure will force them to adjust.
Meanwhile, until September 2021, we ask our readers to be vigilant on this question, in the interest of their own and others’ safety.
If your vehicle is equipped with an automatic lighting system, please make sure to set it at automatic, so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn those lights on.