Writers on Friday: Graham Turner on the proliferation of Daylight Running Lights on cars

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I was a teenager when Volvo caused a stir by introducing daytime running lights to cars in the UK. The usual reaction then was ‘It’s all very well having them in murky Sweden, but why on Earth to we need them here?’.

I was a teenager when Volvo caused a stir by introducing daytime running lights to cars in the UK. The usual reaction then was ‘It’s all very well having them in murky Sweden, but why on Earth to we need them here?’.

And for many years, it was only ever the occasional Volvo that could be spotted with its lights on, illuminating the highway in the bright summer sunshine (those were also the days when we had summer sunshine).

But during a seven-hour round-trip up the A1 on Sunday I realised that nearly every other car now has daytime running lights (DRL) – even my modest vehicle, which my wife disparagingly calls my ‘little red parp parp car’, has them.

They’re much more common now, as I understand it, because of EU regulations. They are, apparently, a safety feature which saves lives and I’m all for that.

Most of these lights, like those on my car, are not much more than sidelights with an inflated opinion of themselves, a little extra visual clue that a ton of metal, rubber and plastic is bearing down on the unsuspecting at considerable speed.

But, of course, this isn’t enough for some of those clever automotive designers desperate to take their vorsprung durch technik to a new level. The versatility of LED lights and halogen lamps has given manufacturers a whole new field to play in and there is a truly dazzling array of styles on offer.

Some go for ‘sticks’ of LED lights – vertical, horizontal, diagonal – which can bestow a vehicle with a variety of almost facial expressions . . . surprise, smarminess, even anger. Others opt for curves or even circles. However, for truly ostentatious DRLs, you have to look at some of the more expensive marques. Audi, for example, have turned them into a real art form – cars with their own mobile light show that almost put the Blackpool Illuminations to shame – while a Jaguar I spotted this week had gone for plain old vulgar size; a strip of lights nearly as wide as my whole car. Well, they do say ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’.