CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

What do to with DRL Night Drivers

Hello esteemed commenters. I have a question about a situation I experienced a couple nights ago. I left work late, and 1/2 way into my commute, I nearly change lanes into the back of a Honda CRV (I believe) which was just running on its daytime running lights. Dim little lights up front, no corners lit, no tails, just the DRLs. I flashed my flashers, my high beams, my brights (seperate from highs in my car), turn my lights on and off, and drove next to him signaling with my hand. All he did was give me the finger, slam on his brakes and slow down (in the left lane just to top the list of his lack of road courtesy), in that order.



Like them or not is a previously discussed topic, but what do you think about DRL’s and how should I have tried to get this gentleman to turn his real lights on? And to expand on this, how do you signal to somebody when they are creating a dangerous situation or bad manners in general, without resorting to road rage and fake police lights?

I Use Automatic DRLs/Headlights, Exclusively.

I never touch a light switch in my Pontiac Bonneveille. The lights err on the side of caution if they err at all. If anything they provide night mode lights when most people would not have any lights on at all. When it’s nice and bright out the DRLs are on. I’m not creating one of your dangerous situations. The DRLs on my car are one feature I like.

That Honda’s got a problem.

How do you signal to or complain about any ignorant driver?

The automatic headlight feature on my Lincolns works perfectly. I think that we would be better off if automatic headlights were required on all cars, and the feature couldn’t be disabled.

Signaling to ignorant drivers: I’ve seen some scrolling LED signs that are meant to be installed in a car’s rear window. With them you can type out a message to the driver behind you. Of course, there’s a good chance that your typing of a message while driving is even more dangerous than whatever the other driver is doing. My solution to ignorant drivers is to get as far away from them as quickly as I can.

Like Ron White says, you can’t fix stupid. If the driver doesn’t respond to your flashing lights or flashing high beams, there is very little hope other than holding up a sign. You could get one of those scrolling lighted signs and put it on the back of the car, but that might be an idea ahead of its time.

Some cars have configured DRL’s in what I think is a very dangerous setup. A rental car I drove about 10 years ago (a Chevy Corsica) illuminated the headlights AND the dashboard lights but not the tailights every time you drove. The first night I had the car this led to me driving on the highway without my lights on because I saw headlights and an illuminated dash. A few people honked at me and I only realized what was going on a few minutes later after I left the car running while dropping something off at a doorstep. While returning I saw that the back of the car was completely dark.

For the next few days that I had that car I had to be very careful at night to make sure that I had actually turned the lights on. That setup was one of the most boneheaded designs I’ve come across and was very dangerous in my opinion–the illuminated dash could trick you and I think it was the Achilles heel here. I would absolutely never purchase a car with it (I wonder how many others have driven without tailights due to this setup). I’ve had other rentals since then that illuminate headlights/dash/tailights when you drive and this is a vast improvement.

I’m not a fan of DRL’s they are unnecessary. And don’t really provide any more safety when half the cars on the road have them. I have seem more than one car with DRLs on at night and no other lights on.

I think flashing your lights was enough. The rest is overkill. In your zeal for safety you appeared to be an aggressive driver. One aggressive action is met by an equal or more aggressive action in response. Just let’em go. While you initially tryed to improve safety the end result was you made an unsafe situation even less safe.

I wonder if…you pulled around in front of them and turned off your lights for a few seconds, maybe flashing you brake lights as well, would they get the message ?

The person cruising along with the left turn signal flashing usually gets my message after I pass them and start messing with mine…left on a bit, then right for a while , or left, right, left, right. 1/4 mile down the road his is off.

It’s a dangerous road hazard - call 911 and let the police take care of it. They have a unique way of getting people’s attention.

Mr. Microphone might work if they are still sold.

Complacent or irresponsible drivers cannot be helped.

However, as others here have pinted out our federal government has an agency absorbing millions of our tax dollars ($851,000,000 2009 budget) much of which is directed toward creating standards for manufacturers to make our roads safer. Lighting is a critical element of safety, yet numerous poor lighting designs pour from the designers, all legal. Directionals molded in right next to headlights, DRLs that leave a car running “dark” from the rear and sides while the driver thinks he has his lights on, DRLs that blind oncoming drivers by using the high beam lights as the DRLs (thank you GM), HIDs, SUV and truck lights so high as to bling those in sedans, plows on private pickups sticking two feet out either side and invisable to oncoming drivers, and on and on.

Lighting regulations shouldn’t be that complex. One simple solution is to require that whenever the ignition key is in the “on” position the low beam headlights, taillights, and sidelights be energized.

I wonder, where does that &851M go?

The Honda that the OP mentioned might just have a problem with taillights. I know that GM’s DRLs turn on all lights just before dark.

I believe that may apply only to the GM cars that use the low beam headlights at full power for the DRLs. I have rented some that did not have auto headlights.

Well, I know of 2 s-10s, a '99 and an '01, the headlights light when you started the engine and all lights came on just before dark.

I have or had four Mercurys, two Lincolns, and one Ford. All seven had/have automatic headlights. However, I know for a fact that not all Fords have auto-headlights. How does you experience with two S-10s prove that all GM’s have auto-headlights?

I sometimes see drivers in the city at night with NO lights. I read somewhere that a large percentage of these people are intoxicated. Best to avoid any interaction besides flashing an oncoming dark car.

Well, perhaps SOME GM DRL’s turn on all lights just before dark, but I know that at least one Chevy Corsica, and I suspect all of them produced that year, don’t turn on all lights just before dark. Instead, they just illuminate the headlights and the dashboard whenever you drive (see my earlier post). I have driven other GM cars that do turn on all lights at dark just as you describe.

If the GM car has sentinel lighting, it turns on all the lights when dusk arrives. This has been the case since at least my 1998 Buick Regal. The Corsica is just too old to have sentinel lighting. I suspect that just Cadillacs and expensive Olds and Buick models had that feature when the Corsica was built. There are probably a few Chevy models, like the Cobalt and Aveo, that don’t have sentinel lighting even today. My 2005 Accord EX V6 doesn’t, and it was the top of the line for Honda that year.

DRL is standard equipment on GM cars. Besides the question is–do DRLs turn on the taillights?

1-888-STOP-DUI or 1-800-STOP-DWI. They will be pulled over, probably not be drunk but receive a citation for no lights on. A citation today will remind them for a lifetime.