The Purpose and Benefits of Daytime Running Lights

The Purpose and Benefits of Daytime Running Lights

Daytime running lights (or DRLs) are a relatively new feature on most cars. DRLs are lights located on the front of a vehicle that remain on whenever the engine is running. Unlike headlights, daytime running lights are fairly dim and don't illuminate the road ahead.

The purpose of daytime running lights is to increase the visibility of your car, so that other drivers can see you on the road. At night, your headlights and tail lights are illuminated, which means that it's easy for other drivers to spot you. However, during the day, most drivers turn their lights off and it's not as easy to spot other vehicles quickly. 

Do daytime running lights help?

Introduced in the 1970s as a safety measure, DRLs have increased in popularity ever since. However, their popularity and usefulness has been debated for decades.

Daytime running lights have become most popular in countries located further north, where there is less light (especially in winter). It makes sense, then, that countries such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Canada were among the first to require DRLs on all vehicles. In these countries, multiple studies conducted since the 1970s have shown that the addition of daytime running lights does reduce accidents.

In other countries, however, DRLs are not as popular. For a time, several US states banned the use of these lights entirely. In the 1990s, the car manufacturer GM pushed to include DRLs on all vehicles in the US. This was met with resistance, but eventually government regulations allowed cars with daytime running lights to be driven on US roads.

There were similar mixed reactions in the UK when daytime running lights became popular in other European countries. From 2011, all new vehicles are required to have daytime running lights.

Safety concerns

Although daytime running lights are intended to make the road safer for all drivers and pedestrians, there are many critics who argue that they do the opposite.

The biggest concern for many drivers is the brightness of DRLs. Even though brightness regulations are put in place by each country, some groups have argued that these standards are too high, and that some DRLs are allowed to be as bright as headlights.

These bright lights could potentially blind other drivers. In theory, daytime running lights should be dim in comparison to your headlights, but this isn't always the case. Additionally, DRLs on larger vehicles are more likely to be placed higher up, meaning that they could shine directly into the eyes of other drivers.

Another argument commonly made is to do with geographical location. A lot of DRL critics live in the US or the UK, and they think that they're less necessary in countries further north. In the US/UK, there's more sunlight in the day, which obviously makes DRLs less useful. Considering the potential safety hazards caused by daytime running lights, certain groups have lobbied to ban them.

In reality, there is some truth in the idea that DRLs aren't needed in certain locations. Some studies have shown that daytime running lights are three times more effective at reducing accidents in Nordic countries that in the US, for example. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that daytime running lights are harmful in any way.

Safety meets style

Now that we've established that daytime running lights aren't going to make you any less safe, let's talk style. DRLs are a great way to add that stylish edge to your vehicle.

There are lots of options out there for you to choose from, but here at PowerBulbs HQ, we're a big fan of LED DRLs. They give your car a sleek look, plus use less power than traditional lights.

If your car doesn't have DRLs fitted as standard, you could add them to your vehicle yourself with the help of a DRL kit. The process of installing a DRL kit is a little trickier than replacing a headlight bulb, so it's a good idea to read through the instructions carefully or speak to an auto-electrician.


Shop our range of LED daytime running lights here.


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About the Author

John Conboy is the founder of, a UK based automotive lighting specialist, which ships bulbs worldwide. John has 20+ years experience in the industry and in that time has become an approved partner of Philips and OSRAM.