Please explain daytime running lamps

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

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The headlamps of a car

You may have noticed a growing number of cars driving around with what look like a row of fairy lights under the headlamps.

These are daytime running lamps (DRLs), which are now commonplace in Australia. The Australian Design Rules allow car manufacturers to incorporate them into their styling, and they come in all kinds of weird and wonderful configurations, but are usually found as a strip of LEDs under or near the main headlamp cluster. Their position, and the fact they run independently of the headlamp, leads some people to confuse them with fog lamps, but they are very different.

The difference between DRLs and fog or driving lamps is the intensity and direction of the light produced. DRLs are much less intense as they are not designed to illuminate the road, but to make the car visible to others. DRLs must only ever emit white light and have very tight restrictions on maximum output so as not to cause glare.

We are seeing more cars equipped with DRLs because they are now mandatory in Europe, where regulations state that they must be on at any time that the vehicle is running and the main beam, low beam or fog lamps are switched off. The Australian Design Rules allow DRLs but they are optional for vehicles sold in Australia. They may eventually become mandatory.

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Written by Nicholas Platt
August 16, 2017