Car News

Transport Canada Cracks Down on Phantom Cars

The Minister of Transport has just announced new rules to help bring Canadian drivers out of the dark. New headlight regulations will put an end to phantom vehicles on nighttime highways.

Modern digital and backlit instrument clusters can look amazing. Able to give drivers more information more of the time, in ways that are more pleasing to the eye. But they can cause safety issues when the sun goes down.

In an older car, when it gets dark outside, the instrument panel gets dark. To fix the problem, most drivers turn on their headlights. That lights up the dash as well. In a new car, things can be more confusing. The dashboard is lit up all the time, so it's as bright in the night as it is in the day. Combine that with the low-level lighting of daytime running lights, and more and more drivers aren't aware that they're running dark. Dark taillights that is.

The new rule is intended to put a stop to so-called phantom vehicles. Cars and trucks on the road in the dark with no taillights and only daytime running lights in the front. They can be impossible to see when you come upon them from behind.

"Phantom vehicles have been a nuisance and a safety risk on Canada’s roads for many years and I’m proud our Government is doing something about it. The new measures we’re taking will improve nighttime visibility and safety for all Canadian road users. As more new vehicles are built to our lighting safety standard, phantom vehicles will eventually become ghosts of the past," said Marc Garneau, minister of Transport.

The new standard comes into effect for all new cars sold from September 1, 2021. Manufacturers have three ways to meet the rule.

1) Have daytime running lights and taillights come on whenever the instrument panel is illuminated and the vehicle is in operation.

That might leave drivers with little front lighting but will help stop rear-end collisions.

2) Automatically turn on the headlights, taillights, and side markers in low-light conditions.

Many automakers already offer that automatic headlight feature, which GM pioneered in 1960.

3) Keep the driver's instrument panel dark so the driver knows to turn on all the lights.

That's the low-tech solution, and it keeps the responsibility of turning the lights on with the driver.

In the meantime, drivers with no lights are a hazard at night or in other low visibility conditions. It is already illegal in every province to drive without headlights in low visibility conditions. If visibility is poor, look for that little green headlight icon on the dash. If you don't see it, check your lights. And if the car behind you is blinking its brights in your mirror? That's probably a message to check your lights.