"Always On" Taillights a Cheap, Effective Safety Enhancement

Dear Car Talk:

We have occasional days of poor visibility -- be it fog, rain, snow or just that half-light we get at dusk and dawn.

During these times, I have followed cars I can barely see, and often wonder why they don't have their taillights on. Then I discovered that automakers did not include taillights in the daytime driving lights system.

It can't be that expensive to include this feature in the car's computer code, and it would be a big safety feature.

Thank you for your Car Talk section in the paper. I look forward to reading it every week. -- Gary

You're right, Gary. Daytime running lamps are "always on" lights that are usually incorporated with the headlights.

They're not the same as headlights. They're dimmer, and they go on and off automatically when the car is driven. They're designed to give you extra visibility with oncoming cars. And most countries require them.

But not the United States. Most cars here have them anyway, because they're a cheap and effective safety enhancement -- and because carmakers have to include them on their cars for Canada, Europe and most other countries anyway.

But there are no daytime running taillights that we know of. It would make sense, for those times you mention. Of course, drivers are supposed to turn on their full head- and taillights during times of poor visibility -- fog, rain, snow, dusk, dawn or sharknado. Most state laws require lights on under those conditions. But we know people forget. So including taillights in the DRL system would be a smart idea.

If you're concerned about people seeing you, Gary, one thing you can do is simply leave your full lights on all the time. Most cars now kill the lights when you turn off the ignition. So the danger of forgetting to switch them off and waking up to a dead battery is exponentially lower than it was in years past.

That'll give you some peace of mind that other drivers can see you in all conditions, and you won't ever have to remember to turn on your lights when conditions change. Of course, it won't help you see those other light-less vehicles. But with your headlights on, at least you'll get a quick look at the make and model before you smack into their rear bumper.

Todays Car-o-Scope

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