Automatic Headlamps Now Mandatory in Japan

Japan is becoming the first country in the world where automakers must ensure to equip all new vehicles with automatic headlamps. This comes in response to cases of elderly pedestrians and cyclists being hit in traffic at dusk because drivers had not switched on their headlamps.

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The enforcement will see headlamps on new cars come with an automatic on function beginning from April 1, 2020, while models introduced before that date, will still be allowed to be sold without automatic lights till October 2021. Furthermore, buses with more than 11 seats and trucks heavier than 3.5 tons will need to meet the requirement from April 2021, and all trucks and buses from October 2023.

The feature is an extension to the current types of automatic headlamps in cars, in the way that they will come on automatically when the ambient light level is at or below a certain limit, regardless if the driver had switched them on or not.

The mandate meets UN Regulation 48, which states the headlamps must switch on within two seconds when the ambient light level decreases to less than 1,000 lux – a level comparable to that of 15 minutes before sunset on a clear day. On the other hand, when the ambient light exceeds 7,000 lux, the headlamps will turn themselves off automatically within five to 300 seconds.

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According to a survey by the Japan Automobile Federation covering 45,000 vehicles, revealed that the headlights of only 0.9% of the surveyed vehicles were on 30 minutes before sunset. While the lights of 10% were on five minutes before dusk, the headlights of just 22.8% were on even when the sun was set. An official of Japan’s Ministry of Road Transport Bureau said:

“Switching on car lights earlier is important, not only in that it allows drivers to see objects outside more clearly, but that it helps pedestrians see approaching cars. We believe turning on the headlights earlier will help elderly people who have weakened eyesight see vehicles around them, leading to fewer accidents at dusk.”

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