In this morning's Federal Register you may not have noticed an item having to do with automobile safety. After eight years, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a denial of a petition by General Motors to require all cars in the U.S. under 5 tons to have daytime running lamps. DOT, through its own studies, has not been able to find an appreciable safety benefit from drivers having their headlights on at all times during the day. Apparently, the government feels daytime lamps have not turned out to be the great safety innovation we thought they were. And we know that auto companies chafe at any new federal requirements that don't involve baliout funds, so on one level the decision is not surprising. You can read the DOT notice here.

But does this mean I should stop bothering to turn on the lights on my vehicle during the day? At the micro level, I don't think so. Just because the federal government is not going to require every car to shine brightly does not mean I shouldn't be allowed to perceive some additional level of safety — and peace of mind — that another car, a bicyclist or a pedestrian will have a greater chance to see my vehicle in time to avoid an accident. And I would appreciate the same chance to see other vehicles too.

 


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