Since February 2011, all European passenger cars and small vans have been equipped with daytime running lights (DRLs) as an added element of safety under European Union regulation.
Australian laws don’t mandate the use of DRLs; their fitment is optional under Australian Design Rule for Road Vehicles 76/00. The lack of rules requiring the use of DRLs has caused some confusion for motorists.
DRLs are meant to make vehicles more conspicuous while on the road at times where headlights are not typically in use, although whether they have improved road safety is still inconclusive.
They are designed to increase visibility with minimal glare or disruption to other motorists and will appear different to a low beam light. They activate and deactivate automatically with the vehicle’s ignition, and can be rigged to turn off when headlights or fog lights are switched on.
Queensland’s Traffic Operations Road Use Management – Vehicle Standards and Safety Regulation 2012 outlines the following for the operation and installation of DRLs:
If you don’t have DRLs installed, using low-beam headlights during the day can offer the same safety benefits. However, there is concern that these lights may make those on motorcycles or bicycles less conspicuous during the day.
Drivers using low-beam headlights should ensure they are not using fog lights, since using fog lights without the presence of fog, rain, or other limited visibility circumstances is illegal in some states.
Bottom line: there’s no legal requirement to use of daytime running lights, or even low beams, but the possible benefits to road safety means drivers should consider their use.