Using your vehicle lights to see and be seen

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

Master light switch
Manually selects the different lighting options of your vehicle.    

Daytime running lights

Daytime running lights
Makes vehicle more visible during the day.
Daytime running
  • 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

Headlight lower beam
(low beam, passing beam, dipped beam) Lights up the road just in front of your vehicle.
Headlight lower beam use


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

Headlight upper beam

Headlight upper beam
(high beam, driving beam, main beam) Lights up a longer distance, allowing you to see far down a dark road.
Headlight upper beam 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

Automatic upper beam
Automatically switches off upper beam when there is oncoming traffic or when there is a vehicle ahead.
Automatic upper beam use
Ensures that your lights do not cause glare for other drivers.

Automatic headlights

Automatic headlights
Automatically switches lights on or off according to the amount of light outside the vehicle.
Automatic headlights use
Ensures that your lights are on when you need them.

Front fog lights

Front fog lights
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.
Front fog lights use
Use if driving in fog or snow.

Rear fog lights

Rear fog lights
Makes your vehicle more visible to drivers behind you in fog, as they are brighter than tail lights.
Rear fog lights use
Use only if driving in fog, rain or snow as these lights can be confused with stop lights, distracting other drivers.

Marking lights

Marking lights
Activates front position lights, rear position lights (tail lights), side marker lights and licence plate lights.
Marking lights use
Make your vehicle more visible to others.
Note: headlights are off.