Drivesmart column: Time to check your vehicle lights

Not to be forgotten are the reflectors.

By Tim Schewe

The next time you get into your vehicle, start it up, set the parking brake, turn on all of the lights and the hazard flashers. Walk around your vehicle and check all the lights. Are they all lit as they should be, and are the lenses clean, intact and still the right colour? If so, you are good to go from the standpoint of lights at least.

For most vehicles today you should find high and low beam headlights, signal lights, park lights and side marker lights at the front. At the rear it will be brake lights, tail lights, signal lights, licence plate light, back up lights, and side marker lights. Some larger commercial vehicles will also have clearance and identification lights.

If you choose to install other approved auxiliary lights such as fog or driving lights, these must be in proper working order as well.

Not to be forgotten are the reflectors. These must be yellow on both sides at the front and red at both sides at the rear. If you break down and can’t turn the lights on, reflectors are your only protection during darkness. Incidentally, this is another good reason not to park facing the wrong way on the street. You don’t have protective reflectors on the front of your vehicle.

Are your headlights aimed properly? If they all function but point in the wrong direction they don’t help you see and they hurt the other drivers’ ability to see. If misalignment is visible to you, it is well past time to have the aim corrected.

Now that this critical equipment is there and functional, we have to remember to use it. Transport Canada took a significant step when it mandated daytime running lights (DRLs) 30 years ago, but it took until this year to remember the rear lights. Effective in 2021 vehicle manufacturers will have to use one of three solutions:

• Have daytime running lights and tail lights come on when the vehicle instrument panel is illuminated and the vehicle is in operation

• Automatically turn on the headlights, tail lights, and side marker lights in low-light conditions

• Keep the driver’s instrument panel dark so the driver knows to turn on all the lights.

We will have to remember to turn on all the lights at night for some time to come. One good suggestion is to remember K.B.L. (Keys in Ignition, SeatBelt, Lights) when you sit in the driver’s seat to start any trip. Perhaps we should move to the other extreme and remove the driver’s ability to turn off the lights.

Having one headlight, tail light or brake light out is but one step away from having no head, tail or brake lights. If you don’t have functioning low beam headlights, tail lights or brake lights your vehicle is in an out of service condition. Should you be stopped, the officer may choose to send you away by tow truck in addition to any other enforcement action such as a traffic ticket or a vehicle inspection order.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit


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