What are Daytime Running Lights


Have you noticed the strings of lights that embellish the headlights on a lot of the new cars today? Many form interesting illuminated patterns that swoop around a vehicle’s main headlights. Sometimes they give the headlights an odd human-like expression. The automotive industry calls these additional lights “daytime running lights” (DRLs) and they are becoming very popular.

How do they work?

Browning in Norco, CA, a full-service Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer, explains that DRLs are really just secondary sets of forward facing lights. They are designed to increase the visibility of a vehicle.  They are generally made up of high intensity white LEDs but you may also see them in amber or yellow colors too.  Most of the time, the car manufacturers design them so they stay on whenever a vehicle is moving.  However, some manufacturers are now using them in conjunction with other lights on the vehicle. For example: some car makers have configured their DRLs so they blink with the vehicle’s directional lamps when turning.

What are their advantages?

DRLs offer a number of advantages.  The first is that DRLs simply make a car a lot more noticeable and that’s a good thing.  You have probably noticed that many DRLs form interesting patterns around a vehicle’s main headlights and thus have become a showy design element. Frankly, this sort of detail makes a car more noticeable when on the road and thus increases it’s safety.

Secondly, DRLs can be wired in conjunction with other lights on a vehicle and this can increase their effectiveness.  As we mentioned above, some manufacturers are wiring their DRLs up to a vehicle’s turning signals.  This functions to make the turning signal more noticeable and thus more effective.  Other manufacturers are using them in conjunction with low beam head light operations and other things.

Another advantage that should be noted is that as a light source, they are very efficient and thus use minimal power.  Today’s cars have no shortage of components that draw power so anything that reduces that load is welcome.

They originated in Scandinavia

Daytime running lights DRLs were first mandated in the late 1970s in Sweden where light levels in the winter are generally low, even during the day. Specifically, in 1977 Sweden required that DRLs be attached to all vehicles sold in the country.  The rest of Scandinavia followed suit quickly. Here in the US, things took a little longer. It was not until 1993 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) agreed to allow US automakers to use DRLs in their vehicle designs.

Interestingly, they aren’t mandatory in the US

You may find it interesting that the use of DRLs in the US is not mandatory yet. The problem is that they need to comply with complex government regulations, in this case “FMVSS No. 8: Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment.”  Some of the car manufacturers have decided that complying with this standard is more trouble than it’s worth and have passed on by – at least for now.


DRLs appear to offer many advantages to automakers and are thus being rapidly adopted.   Several large studies have shown that they do increase a vehicle’s visibility and safety so it’s probably only a matter of time before most vehicles have them.

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