Some car lights are easy to confuse. A good example is dual rear fog lights which can very easily pass off as brake lights. There are even more lighting functions that can create confusion. The industry should do something about these problems.

While driving through a tunnel the other day, I was wondering whether the oncoming driver wanted to warn me of a hazard or a radar control with his high beam. Neither. He was just one of many to find daytime running lights sufficient in a tunnel. And because it has high beam characteristics, it’s easy to confuse with real high beam. That’s why dipped beam is mandatory in tunnels. Conversely, daytime running lights can look like parking lights on bright sunny days. The ECE committee (Economic Commission for Europe), which is responsible for the technical side of car lights, wants to use automatic dimmers to cut down on possible confusion. This would allow daytime running lights to be significantly brighter than today, but only if a sensor detects the lighting conditions. On overcast days, the lights would be dimmed or even be completely switched to dipped beam. A good solution that will hopefully come soon.

Is it the brake lights or not? Dual rear fog lights can be very easily confused with brake lights.


Abolition is the only real solution when it comes to dual rear fog lights. At first glance, they can be very easily confused with brake lights. Only the lack of a high-level third brake light makes it clear that the driver ahead of you isn’t braking. The few car manufacturers who still want to do without different cabling for right-hand and left-hand traffic should finally put an end to this confusion. If not, the ECE should do whatever it can.

In Germany and many other countries, drivers are only allowed to overtake buses at walking speed when the buses have their hazard lights on. That takes time, especially for really long articulated buses. If such a monstrous thing wants to pull out of the bus stop, the driver will (hopefully) indicate. Someone who is overtaking is then allowed to accelerate and drive past the bus more quickly. It’s just that he won’t be able to tell which is which – turn indicator or hazard lights. Harassed bus drivers may well be annoyed by the continued but unavoidable walking speed. Faster flashing of the indicator for warning purposes could easily be put into practice with LEDs and would bring clarity. And even irregular flashing signals (short-long or something similar) could surely be discussed on an international level. Ideally for all vehicles, not just buses.

Cornering lights, in other words the combined fog and turning lights which light up when turning the wheel, can sometimes also cause confusion. Given the increasing laziness of many drivers when it comes to indicating, these lights could be an orientation aid. It’s easy really: if one of the headlights is on, the car will go in that direction, practically turning into an automatic auxiliary indicator. But that can have fatal consequences. In narrow roundabouts, the cornering lights shine towards the center because you’re turning the wheel in that direction. Exiting the roundabout without indicating, which is unfortunately very common, then comes as a surprise for some. And a failed fog light also opens up room for misinterpretation.

Side markers are actually a good thing. They’re the amber lights – and red at the rear in North America – which are mandatory on the sides of commercial vehicles, but are not very common on cars in Europe. If you’re appearing between other vehicles you may well confuse them with the indicators which are the same color – but luckily only in the first second or so. Then the difference between flashing lights and illuminated lights is clear.

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