Using your vehicle lights to see and be seen

From Transport Canada

Vehicles driven in the dark without lights, or “phantom vehicles,” are a serious safety risk. Some drivers think a lit-up dashboard means their lights are on, which may not be true. It’s also important to use proper lighting in bad weather.

Transport Canada is introducing a new lighting standard to help vehicles and drivers see, and be seen.

New lighting standard

As of September 2021 the Canadian Vehicle Lighting Regulation will require that all new vehicles sold in Canada have one of the following:

  • tail lights that come on automatically with daytime running lights
  • headlights, tail lights, and side marker lights that turn on automatically in the dark
  • a dashboard that stays dark to alert the driver to turn on the lights

This standard will apply to all new vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs, 3-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles and heavy trucks).

Tips for driving with proper vehicle lights

Don’t put yourself and others at risk. Turn your headlights on when driving in the dark or in bad weather.

You need to know:

  • Automatic headlights only work if you set them on automatic
  • A bright dashboard doesn’t always mean that your headlights and tail lights are on
  • Daytime running lights don’t give you enough light to drive safely in the dark or in bad weather

Understanding your vehicle’s light symbols

Symbol Function Illustration Information

Master light switch

This symbol is a headlight bulb with three dotted light rays shining straight out to the left.
Manually selects the different lighting options of your vehicle.    

Daytime running lights

This symbol is a headlight bulb with three dotted light rays shining straight out to the left.
Makes vehicle more visible during the day.
  • Turn on when headlights are off
  • Do not provide enough light on the road ahead when it's dark

Note: marking lights are off.

Headlight lower beam

This symbol is a headlight bulb with five light rays shining down and to the left.
(low beam, passing beam, dipped beam) Lights up the road just in front of your vehicle. Lights up at least 60 metres ahead of the vehicle and 20 to 30 metres in the oncoming traffic lane.

Use:

  • in urban areas with lit streets
  • when following or approaching oncoming vehicles

Headlight upper beam

This symbol is a headlight bulb with five light rays shining straight out to the left.
(high beam, driving beam, main beam) Lights up a longer distance, allowing you to see far down a dark road. Lights up at least 150 metres ahead of the vehicle and 30 to 60 metres in the oncoming traffic lane.

Use:

  • in rural areas

Switch off when:

  • another car is coming towards or is driving in front of you
  • driving in fog, rain or snow as your upper beams reflect off these, making it more difficult to see the road and obstacles

Automatic upper beam

This symbol is either a headlight bulb containing an uppercase 'A' and with five light rays shining straight out to the left, or the word 'AUTO', or simply the uppercase letter 'A'.
Automatically switches off upper beam when there is oncoming traffic or when there is a vehicle ahead. Ensures that your lights do not cause glare for other drivers.

Automatic headlights

This symbol is either a headlight bulb containing an uppercase 'A' and with five light rays shining down and to the left, or the word 'AUTO', or simply the uppercase letter 'A'.
Automatically switches lights on or off according to the amount of light outside the vehicle. Ensures that your lights are on when you need them.

Front fog lights

This symbol is a light bulb with three light rays shining down and to the left.  The light rays are shining through fog, represented by a vertical curving line.
Provides better view of the road in fog, as they have a wide beam pattern to light up the road directly in front of your vehicle. Use if driving in fog or snow.

Rear fog lights

This symbol is a light bulb with three light rays shining straight out to the right.  The light rays are shining through fog, represented by a vertical curving line.
Makes your vehicle more visible to drivers behind you in fog, as they are brighter than tail lights. Use only if driving in fog, rain or snow as these lights can be confused with stop lights, distracting other drivers.

Marking lights

This symbol is two light bulbs side by side, each with three light rays. One is shining out to the right and the other is shining out to the left.
Activates front position lights, rear position lights (tail lights), side marker lights and licence plate lights. Make your vehicle more visible to others.
Note: headlights are off.
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