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Drivers must know vehicle’s features

May 7, 2011
By DAVE WERNER - Franklin County Traffic Safety Board ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

As the author of the weekly traffic law and safety articles, I often (probably too often) discuss traffic law and safety with relatives, friends, and most anyone that is willing to do so. An interesting discovery that adversely affects motorist's safe driving is the fact that they really do not understand their vehicle's operating features. A key issue is how many don't really know how their lighting system works.

If you are a consistent reader of these articles, you will be aware of numerous articles touting the safety benefits of using headlights all the time, including daytime driving. If you are not prone to use your full headlights, then at least drive a vehicle with daytime running lights (DRLs).

Unfortunately, as I discuss the benefits of driving with headlights at all times, I find that an unbelievable number of drivers, including many of my friends, did not know whether their vehicle had daytime running lights at all, or whether or not their full headlights came on automatically at dusk, or whether their full lights came on when they turned on their wipers, or even, believe it or not, whether their tail lights were on with DRLs.

I actually had someone tell me their full lights, including tail lights, were on all the time when the headlight switch was on the "automatic" position. Upon checking out exactly what his vehicle was doing, he realized that all the time - two full years with that vehicle - he drove with only DRLs, and for two years he drove that vehicle, even at night, with no tail lights, because he "thought" his full headlights and tail lights were on all the time.

A good driver doesn't assume - he knows.

Another driver, a good friend of mine, thought his vehicle had DRLs, and that his lights were on all the time. When we checked, he did not have DRLs at all but did have an electric eye that turned on his lights as it became dark. This person was aware of the law that required headlights on with wipers, but thought his lights were on and he was in compliance. They weren't! As a matter of fact, under NYS V&T Law, DRLs do not qualify under the lights with wipers law you must turn on your full headlights, which includes your tail lights.

Although I could go on and on, I hope this article gets your attention, and sends you reviewing your vehicle's manual. Car manufacturers are different, as are the cars that they produce. Some manufacturers provide DRLs on all their models, some don't. Some have electric eyes, some don't. The more your vehicle costs the more features it is likely to have. But, drivers, you need to know what it has and what it doesn't have. Don't assume find out!


For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board web site at



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