Lights off, danger on: An alarming trend on the streets of Metro Detroit

1 of most dangerous infractions drivers commit

We’ve all seen it: cars on the highway without lights.

It’s a safety risk, those drivers who are failing to turn their vehicle’s lights on while driving in the dark. State police tell us it’s one of the most dangerous infractions we can commit as drivers.

We’re talking about lights off and danger on: an alarming trend on the streets of Metro Detroit that has local law enforcement officials concerned. Speeding is bad, of course, but driving without your headlights is so dangerous.

Deputy Chief Archie Hamilton of the Wyandotte Police Department started noticing the increasing numbers of “no light drivers” over the last couple of years, and said his department is now committed to an education campaign.

“There are not many drivers out there that this hasn’t happened to,” Hamilton said.

Not too many years ago, car lights had a simple on-and-off switch.

Today in a 2022 Ford Expedition work truck, the light switch has no less than seven positions and options. It’s all very confusing, and this is where the problem begins. Add to the complex light switches the false sense of security your dashboard offers.

“Back in the day, in the mid-90s, we didn’t have to worry about that. If our lights weren’t on, we would immediately know it because our dashboard lights wouldn’t be on,” Hamilton said.

Local 4 crime and safety expert, and former police officer, Darnell Blackburn recommends a pre-drive check like an airline pilot. Check to ensure your seat belt, mirrors and light switch are in the correct position.

If someone is driving behind you flashing their lights at you, they’re probably trying to let you know that your lights are off. You have to make sure your lights are in the “auto” position.

“There needs to be some type of indicator that can alert the driver that their headlights are off, because right now, that doesn’t exist,” Hamilton said.

Canada was so concerned about vehicles being driven in the dark that it introduced a new lighting standard to help drivers. You can learn about that new standard below.

Canada’s 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 drivers to turn on the lights.

This standard will apply to all new vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, three-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles, and heavy trucks.

Automaker statements

Local 4 asked automakers about the Canadian regulations and whether there is a plan for similar action in the United States.

Here is a statement from Stellantis:

Stellantis vehicles equipped with automatic tail lamp functionality are equipped with an on-off switch for use at the driver’s discretion. Stellantis urges due care when operating any motor vehicle.


Here is a statement from General Motors:

All vehicles across General Motors brands come standard with automatic lights in North America and have for a number of years now. Each time the vehicle is restarted, the lights default to their automatic setting. So our products only have the lights turned off if the driver actively makes that choice. Some of our newer products also have a notification that pops up if the lights have been manually turned off and then the vehicle is put back into drive.

General Motors

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