The Pedestrians View on DRL







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Last updated

 13 December 2010





DaDRL accept that low intensity lights can help pedestrians create an awareness of oncoming vehicles, but full power 55watt headlights are considered too glaring and disorienting. Multiple vehicles in an urban environment create a sea of glare, inhibiting the ability of pedestrians to discriminate between vehicles and affect perception of distances.


A real concern to a pedestrian is loss of conspicuity caused by DRL as they reduce a driver's ability to perceive hazards correctly particularly if your eyesight is de-sensitised after a day of driving against other vehicles with headlights ablaze - DRL put pedestrians at an unnecessary risk.



No scientific proof supports the political decision in favour of daytime running lights. Road safety cannot generally be improved by this measure. Increasingly, pedestrians, bikers, animals and objects are escaping the attentiveness of drivers. This fact is irrefutable. Thus - cui bono ? It can not be justified to threaten one part of the population while 'protecting' drivers.

The phenomenon 'change blindness' (technical term in cognition psychology) and other distracting, irritating and  -worst case scenario- disabling factors in connection with DRLs and headlights (glare, macula-stress, adaptation levels) during daytime can cause fatalities. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Cognition psychology is teaching us that  the driver's attention is caught by the DRL and at the same time pedestrians, bikers, obstacles on the road etc. can be overlooked very easily. In addition the not too well known 'change blindness' (elicited by DRL)  can cause additional problems.

Children, who are at highest risk cannot be protected by reflectors and reflecting clothing at daytime. No alerting signal of sufficient brightness would stimulate the retinae of DRL-drivers. Even LED-blinking diodes would be to weak in bright sunlight or under daylight conditions for indicating an 'obstacle' on the road.

DRL are bringing uncalculable risks for all traffic participants.


"Get out of our road we're barging through"

Vulnerability and Risk Emergence in Complex Traffic Scenarios by University Professor Peter Heilig

Disturbance of the equilibrium of the smooth flow in complex traffic scenarios can be compared with some rather thoughtless human eco-system-interactions in the past.  Minor changes may provoke catastrophes and sequences of undesired irreversible failures ('global dimming', climate change, etc.).

'Natural' brightness distribution within visual fields being just one of some prerequisites for the driver's optimized sight, attention and perception.  Any accentuation or 'over'-accentuation of stimuli would cause unequal distribution of attention.  Consequently some 'accentuated' traffic-relevant objects' Daytime Running Lights (DRL) catching more attention than the less conspicuous objects or 'weaker' traffic participants are creating interference factors thereby disturbing a delicately balanced vulnerable stability.  The occurrence of traffic-accidents is probably not reflecting the true potential of induced hazard.  'Near misses' and the avoidance of crashes by preventive driver-reactions just in time may falsify the attempts of expert-evaluations and analysis.

The signalling effect of DRL functioning as distracter is only one factor causing imbalance and a kind of non-equilibrium.  Side impact- and rear end crashes are indicating the effect of 'imbalance of attention' by accentuating the front of vehicles exclusively (in some countries).

 Reflecting materials appear to be ineffective in connection with DRL.  The illumination of bicycles suffers from systematic misconception:  With decreasing daylight intensity, front and rear vehicle lights attract the attention of other traffic participants; however cyclists are hard to observe and to detect against a darkening background.  The average bicycle illumination does not protect at all against the risk of (fatal) side impacts. 

Deaths in mixed traffic are avoidable: blinding glare caused by the bluish High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights can be observed with increasing frequency since the introduction of the experiment (Licht am Tag) in Austria.  Additionally headlight misalignment and road undulations cause momentary dazzle.

Usually more factors than one are multiplied before the catastrophe of a traffic accident: sometimes a harmless (probably superfluous) traffic sign could be just one distraction too much and provokes cognition failures (overload of the visual short term memory).


All past attempts to increase the conspicuity of pedestrians and cyclists have failed.