Daytime Running Lights for all vehicles throughout Europe?

Not at the expense of motorcyclists!

Below you will find an article on Daytime Running Lights adopted from a report from the FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists Association) General Secretary Aline Delhaye.

The main thrust of the report comes from FEMA and MAG UK’s responses to the European Commissions (EC) consultation on Daytime Running Lights (DRL), which closed on the 17th of November.

The consultation as reported in last month?s Network was basically to find people’s views on the introduction of compulsory/mandatory DRL for all vehicles in all countries.

The subsequent seminar organised by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) followed the close of the EC consultation on DRL and brought together the various stakeholders to discuss facts and views.

I attended the seminar in Brussels with representatives from FEMA to represent riders along with other interested parties.

These were the UK representatives of motorists, or road users and included the RAC Foundation and the AA Motoring Trust. Representatives from the motorcycle industry were also present, including Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Triumph and ACEM (Association des Constructeurs Europeens de Motocycle, The Motorcycle Industry in Europe) gave a presentation from the motorcycle industry perspective.

A whole raft of other attendees included representatives from Osram, Philips Technologie, Hella, GE Lighting, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda, Road Safety Organisations and politicians, to mention a few of the 130 representatives invited.

The representatives and presentations could be split roughly in half, those supporting the introduction of mandatory DRL and those who did not, mainly because of the adverse effect on motorcycles. For now, I will leave you to make your mind up about who supported the introduction of DRL across Europe as a ‘bright’ idea.

However to set the record straight, what we are talking about is Daytime Running Lights (DRL) which is basically a separate lighting system, normally fitted in the vehicle’s original headlights and of low-intensity wattage or candela (power output) by the vehicle manufacturer or as an aftermarket part.

We are not talking about AHO (Automatic Headlights On) which is presently fitted to the majority of motorcycles by motorcycle manufacturers and has been voluntary since 2001. The headlights are automatically switched on with the ignition and do not have an off/sidelight/on/ switch fitted in the handlebar switchgear.

So you may be happy with AHO on your bike or you may say there is no point in fighting DRL as we already have this automatically. We can’t change that, but mandatory DRL is a completely different ball game to AHO.

I was able to speak during the debate, with the motorcycle aspects covered by my FEMA colleagues. I concentrated on calling for car manufacturers to take responsibility for the bad design of car A-Pillars that hide motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians; not to rely on gimmicks like DRL and I called on the FIA or its Foundation to spend its time and effort on motorcycle awareness programmes for car drivers.

I also gave the example of my experience in 1984, of fitting a specific DRL kit produced by Lucas to police motorcycles. I fitted hundreds of these kits, yet car drivers still pulled out on the police motorcyclists.

Consider that the police motorcyclists not only had the DRL lamp, but also a large white fairing and fluorescent clothing. I stated that it wouldn’t matter if a rider had a Christmas tree strapped to his helmet, car drivers would still not see motorcyclists.

ACEM’s presentation highlighted the issue of other vehicle driver’s perception failure and educating other vehicle drivers to look and see motorcyclists.

Data from their study (MAIDS) demonstrated that other vehicle drivers who also have a PTW (Powered Two Wheeler) licence, are much less likely to commit a perception failure and they also gave the examples that motorcyclists are not distracted like car drivers by eating, drinking, telephoning (mobile phone), changing a CD and so forth – and because motorcyclists have a free field of vision without an A Pillar.

However, ACEM still seem to be preoccupied that some form of lighting on motorcycles will be advantageous.

We have called on the commission to freeze any decision on DRL until the results of their research are know, which includes different coloured diode lights.

This was supported somewhat by the German organisation ADAC (an equivalent of the UK RAC/AA) who purported to represent riders. They stated that a technical solution needs to found to make motorcyclists more visible for example using yellow lights. Although they want to see DRL introduced across Europe, they like others, did recognise that motorcycles would face some problems if DRL were introduced.

Whether this was paying lip service to our concerns or we were actually listened too – taking our concerns taken into consideration – remains to be seen.

There seems to be a rush to implement DRL, but if we are to believe the Commission, there will be further discussion and meetings to follow next year.

Politically the issue has moved on recently in the EU Parliament TRAN Committee, where members have given their support to a motion for an EU Parliament Resolution on the Road Safety Action Programme (RSAP) Mid Term Review.

This includes calling on the EU Commission to submit its promised legislative proposals on Daytime Running Lights.

FEMA pointed out that: Representatives of FEMA and MAG UK, very concerned by the EC’s intention to introduce compulsory DRL for all vehicles throughout Europe, challenged the road safety benefits of DRL, questioning the validity of the research on which the European Commission’s proposal was based and sought reassurance that the consultation process within the European Union would not be negated by decisions taken at the United Nations.

It seems clear to FEMA that the car manufacturers, light manufacturers and a number of road safety, research organisations and car drivers clubs, will continue to push for compulsory DRL, because they appear to believe that it is acceptable for motorcyclists to be more at risk of being killed if it will save the life of more car drivers.

We were pleased however to see support for our concerns that DRL would result in a loss of conspicuity for motorcyclists, from the British Government senior official from the UK Department for Transport, Ian Yarnold.

Together with a representative of the Transport Research Laboratory, Ian Knight, he raised serious doubts about the wisdom of making DRL an issue for European harmonisation and questioned a number of the conclusions reached in the research supporting DRL. Most importantly they maintained that any benefits of DRL would be far outweighed by the costs.

Furthermore, we were encouraged when the Head of the European Commission’s road safety unit, Dr. Tostmann, said that the widespread concerns raised by motorcyclists and other vulnerable road user groups within the consultation process required the Commission to give further consideration to the matter and to engage in discussions with all stakeholders. He then stated that there would be no question of the Commission introducing a measure that would benefit one category of road user to the disadvantage of any other group of road users.

FEMA new General Secretary, Aline Delhaye, says: “We all agree on the overall objective of improving road safety; however FEMA can not accept the current safety-based tactics launched by the pro-DRL lobbies taking advantage of the 2010 casualty reduction objective.

Every life whether a car driver, a motorcyclist, a cyclist of a pedestrian, is worth the same. Raising the risk of one category of road users at the cost of saving another is simply ethically unacceptable. I am encouraged by the Commission’s recent statement reassuring FEMA that no measure that would endanger any category of road users would be implemented.”

MAG UK fully supports FEMA’s statement of position which is as follows:

“Based on all the above facts and figures, the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA) is very concerned by the European Commission’s intention to introduce compulsory DRL for all vehicles in all countries. FEMA still believes that the measure will lead to a loss of conspicuity for motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users.

There are sufficient doubts concerning both the quality of some of the research and the absence of clear evidence demonstrating the benefits of compulsory DRL for all vehicles from countries where it has been introduced, to warrant its promotion as an issue for compulsory harmonisation.

While perhaps improving car drivers’ safety, the measure will do so at the expense of Vulnerable Road Users (VRU), which include motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, at a time when the EU is promoting the use of alternative means of transport, for mobility and environmental reasons.”

Conspicuity is a key issue for motorcyclists’ safety. FEMA believes that the measure of harmonizing DRL at European level is being rushed through as, up to now, no alternative has proved to be efficient in terms of re-establishing motorcycle conspicuity. Imposing DRL at European level now would put VRU at much greater risk.

FEMA is also concerned that it will lead to a shift in the responsibility for taking appropriate action to minimise a hazardous situation, away from the car driver onto the motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian – this being in large part a consequence of the car driver believing that ‘I have my lights on so, therefore, I must have been seen by that motorcyclist/cyclist/pedestrian’.

This view is all the more important when the environmental cost of DRL for all  vehicles is recognised. At a time when we are struggling with global warming, we believe that an energy expending measure such a DRL for all vehicles should only be introduced if it can be clearly demonstrated that its appreciable costs are appreciably outweighed by its benefits. We are of the opinion that this is not the case.

Because of the very different situations and conditions in the member states, with no existing viable alternative for motorcycle conspicuity, the recognized environmental cost, FEMA currently opposes the harmonization of DRL at EU level. DRL should be left to the appreciation of National governments, in accordance with motorcyclists and other Vulnerable Road Users’ associations.

What next for MAG?

We believe it is time to turn the focus on politicians both in the UK and Europe and there will be a lobby to write to your political representative on the issue for their support and the concerns of MAG.

As they say, ‘watch this space’.


MAG reply to Commission Here
FEMA reply to the Commission Here
TRL Report Here

Issued by
Trevor Baird
Director of Public Affairs

The UK’s Leading Riders’ Rights Organisation