18 October 2010


From 2012, all new buses and coaches will have to legally be driven during the daytime with their headlights turned on. This is the result of legislation passed in the European Parliament in 2008. All new cars and vans built from early 2011 will be similarly affected. The move, it is claimed, will save lives as headlights, even in the daytime, still enable a vehicle to be seen more clearly.

There are large sections of society who, while not disagreeing completely with the above reasoning, feel that it puts others in more danger and has an impact on the environment. Perhaps understandably, motorcyclists - who already are legally bound to drive with their headlights on at all times - feel it will make them less noticeable to other road users and pedestrians. Friends of the Earth rightly point out that headlights draw additional power from vehicles' alternators which in turn make the engines work harder, for which more fuel is needed.

The ruling stems from Scandinavia, where daylight hours can be very scarce indeed during the winter months. Since 1977 it has been a legal requirement here to drive by road with headlights on at all times there and this has been the main driving force behind an EU-wide scheme. This is the reason Volvo cars, irrespective of country of sale, have their headlights turned on at all times.

Back in 2008, the LibDem transport spokesman described the ruling as "dangerous" and "unnecessary". Two years later and the same person is now in office - Norman Baker. Not that he can overturn an agreed directive, but it will be interesting to hear what comments he has on the matter today.

In Germany, a study was undertaken that showed driving with dipped headlights on at all times increased fuel consumption by up to 3%, though to countenance this and other claims likely to be made by other Member States, the EU said that its evidence suggested 'day headlamp' introduction could reduce the number of deaths on the roads of its constituent countries by between 3-5%, or up to 2,000 fatalities annually.

Applying this to the bus and coach industries, not much noticeable difference will take place. Many local authorities and bus operators already have 'best practice' schemes in place which see dipped headlights applied in designated areas, such as bus stations or travelling through dense pedestrian areas. Coach operators undertaking traditional tour work see less headlight usage, though scheduled coach services, as buses, tend to pass through areas where dipped headlights need to be turned on.

Hull City Centre, for example, is one such are where dipped headlights need to be operated. We're not sure whether non-compliance could result in a fixed penalty notice or not, but it's something both major operators in the city comply with. Drivers there can pass through the city centre on numerous occasions in a 4-hour driving stint, so simply leave their headlights on at all times - save forgetting! Can you blame them? It would be interesting to learn whether motorcyclist fatalities are greater in areas which enforce dipped headlight use compared to elsewhere in the UK.

I was once told that buses operating for TfL in London have their headlights forced on at all times, or at least their side lights and that turning the headlight switch to 'off' had no effect on the bulbs. It could be argued that buses and coaches have long been conforming to this scheme in areas with greatest risk of injury and that once again they've been leading the way.

1 comment:

Liam said...

Manufacturers have been attempting to reduce this increased fuel consumption by the used of LED lights operating as the daytime running lights 'DRL'. LEDs have a lower power consumption than normal dipped headlights so the impact on fuel shouldnt be too high