15 Seconds to Safety: Are Your Tail Lights On?

One of the most common mistakes drivers are making these dark, wintry days is failing to activate their tail lights.

If you’re ever trailing one of these phantom cars, either during a cloudy day or even at night, chances are there are one or more misconceptions at play.


Tail lights are like daytime running lights: they are always on. Not true. They turn on with the headlights.

A lit up dashboard means all lights are on. Not always true. Some newer vehicles’ dashboards are constantly backlit.

It’s daytime… so, tail lights aren’t needed. In reality, tail lights are an important part of being seen from behind, especially in winter when days are shorter and snow, rain, fog, and all-around dreariness are common 24 hours a day.

A flick of a switch can mean the difference between a collision and getting home safely. Watch this quick video to make sure you know your lights.

And while you’re at it, check out the other videos in the 15 Seconds to Safety Shift Into Winter series:

> How to Pack Your Vehicle Emergency Kit in 15 Seconds

> How to Measure Tread Depth in 15 Seconds

Are your tail lights on?

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13 Responses to 15 Seconds to Safety: Are Your Tail Lights On?

  1. Laurie on November 20, 2017 at 8:44 am

    You are correct about newer cars always having a backlit dash. It took me a long time to get the hang of not thinking my lights were on in my new Honda. The dash lights up like a Christmas tree whereas my last car only did when you turned on the lights.

    • tranbceditor on November 20, 2017 at 10:42 am

      It’s a pretty easy thing to fall prey to, but we hope more and more people begin to understand that they aren’t fully illuminated and make the switch!

  2. Caz on November 9, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for taking this on. I have been on a mission for years now to get the message out but I am one person and some days I feel as though I am the only person who notices. A coordinated, multi jurisdictional multi language campaign can not happen soon enough!

    In the last two years, I have emailed ICBC – they replied it was the responsibility of the police. I also emailed Drive Smart BC – They replied that they had blogged about the issue in the past. I called a couple radio station traffic lines begging them to include a blurb about ensuring lights are fully on but was told that they didn’t have time to fit in because of sponsor and advertising commitments.

    Again, as on most days, my 35 km commute between Surrey and North Vancouver included at least 5 people without lights on each way and tonight going West, in the driving rain, there was an old pickup truck completely loaded down with no lights and travelling under the speed limit – all this as we passed several rear end accidents that had happened East bound. This is just Highway 1! I can’t imagine how many other routes, maybe less well lit, that are experiencing an uptick in accidents because of drivers who are not seen and can not see clearly.

    Thanks in advance for continuing to spread the message.

    • tranbceditor on November 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      It is a legitimate safety concern to be sure Caz. Thanks for your message. We hope that others share this content and conversations and awareness around this issue help!

  3. Anonymous on November 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    My lights are on the minute I turn my car on…I just put them on automatic

    • tranbceditor on November 8, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Yay! That’s what we like to hear.

  4. G. Wilson on November 7, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Some new cars come with an extra detent on the headlight switch: “Automatic”. Use that and your taillights will be on when they need to be.

  5. Richard Bennett on November 26, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I almost hit a very, very expensive car a few years ago on the Coquihallaa in fog and heavy snow – a silver car – they did not have tail lights on and all of a sudden there they were. I missed then by inches.

    I wish car manufacturers would install the same electronics that activate daytime running lights to not only include taillights but side marker lights.

    You see cars all the time, they feel if they can see to drive, others can see them! Not so. Rain, fog, dusk and other low light occurrences.

  6. kucapark on January 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    In reality, tail lights are an important part of being seen from behind, especially in winter when days are shorter and snow, rain, fog, and all-around dreariness are common 24 hours a day. Where such information?

  7. Pelle Agerup on January 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Ministry of Transportation:
    Would it not be a great idea to join the rest of the world to ALWAYS have tail lights on. Would save life and improve transportation.

    • tranbceditor on January 4, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Hi Pelle,

      Thanks for the feedback. We agree, taillights are always a good idea.

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