CAR TALK: Canada takes action to stop ‘ghost vehicles’ | Business

Dear car speech: I had a scary experience last night. I borrowed my friend’s car for an errand, got in the car, and drove off.

The lights on the dashboard were on, so I assumed my headlights were on. But they weren’t. It turns out that at night, the dashboard looks exactly the same whether the headlights are on or off. The only way to find out, apparently, is to look for the little lighthouse icon. After several drivers flashed their lights to me, I finally figured out what was wrong.

Shouldn’t the dashboard lights stay off unless your headlights are on? Wouldn’t that be safer? If the dashboard was dark, I would certainly have known how to turn on my lights at night! – Sharon

Dear Sharon: I agree with you 100%. And the Government of Canada too.

Canada calls cars like yours “ghost vehicles” when they are driven at night without the headlights or taillights on. And now they’ve put an end to it. They implemented three new requirements in 2021.

First, all cars in Canada are already required to have daytime running lights. These are always on, with light dimmers up front that add to a car’s visibility during the day. But until recently, nothing required DRLs to include lighting in the rear of the car.

The goal of DRLs is to make cars easier to see, during the day, but also when visibility is poor. So far, they have helped you see the cars coming your way. Now, with the included taillights, they will also help you see the cars driving in front of you.

Second, any car with DRL should automatically turn on the full set of car headlights, tail lights and side markers at night. It’s simple technology that most cars have now anyway. But that’s an option, and you have to choose the “automatic” setting on your headlight switch. Canada’s new law requires this to be the default setting so no one can forget to turn on their full set of lights at night.

And finally, the new law eliminates the problem you had, Sharon. It prohibits the dashboard lights from being turned on unless all of the car’s exterior lights are on.

These are all very smart and sensible requirements. And we hope – like these cold fronts that Canada sends us every year – these rules will get to the top 48 quickly.

– A question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or send an email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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