OTTAWA – New regulations are coming for vehicles sold in Canada that are meant to eradicate 'phantom vehicles' – vehicles that drive without proper lights on in the dark — from Canadian roadways.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Wednesday that, starting in September of 2021, all new vehicles sold in Canada have to comply with new vehicle lighting safety standards to be more visible in darkness and in low light conditions.

In three years, manufacturers will have to build vehicles in one of three ways:

  • To have daytime running lights and tail lights that come on automatically when the vehicle instrument panel is illuminated and the car is turned on;
  • To have the vehicle automatically turn on headlights, taillights and side marker lights in low light conditions; or
  • To have the drivers’ instrument panel stay dark until the driver turns the lights on

Garneau said this update to Canada’s motor vehicle safety regulations is intended to improve nighttime visibility for drivers, while enhancing safety for others on the road.

"Phantom vehicles have been a nuisance and a safety risk on Canada’s roads for many years… As more new vehicles are built to our lighting safety standard, phantom vehicles will eventually become ghosts of the past," the minister said in a statement announcing the new regulations.

In the meantime, Transport Canada is partnering with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) to revive a 2015 driver awareness "see and be seen" campaign that is mean to raise awareness about turning your lights on in bad weather and in low light conditions.

It is illegal to drive in Canada without headlights on during low visibility, but Garneau said right now in some vehicles when the instrument panel is illuminated drivers may think that means their headlights and taillights are turned on, which isn’t always the case.