Transport Canada goes ghostbusting, targets ‘phantom vehicles’

News release

The Government of Canada takes action on vehicles that drive in the dark with no lights

March 21, 2018    Ottawa, ON    Transport Canada

If there’s a car with no lights driving in your neighbourhood, who are you going to call? The police is the correct answer, but Canadians asked Transport Canada for some help too. The department works to keep all Canadians safe on our roads – a priority for the Government of Canada – which is why the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced a new vehicle lighting safety standard today.

The safety standard requires all new cars sold in Canada as of 2021 to be more visible in low-light conditions, and will require manufacturers to build vehicles that do one of the following:

  • Have daytime running lights and tail lights come on when the vehicle instrument panel is illuminated and the vehicle is in operation;
  • Automatically turn on the headlights, tail lights, and side marker lights in low-light conditions; or
  • Keep the driver’s instrument panel dark so the driver knows to turn on all the lights.

At the same time, the new vehicle lighting safety standard will allow new, advanced lighting technologies that boost driver visibility without blinding oncoming traffic.

Vehicles that drive in the dark with no lights on, also known as ‘phantom vehicles’, pose a safety risk as they are difficult to see in low-light conditions. Drivers believe an illuminated instrument panel means the headlights and tail lights are already on, which may not be the case.

While the new lighting safety standard will apply to vehicles sold from September 1, 2021 onwards, current vehicles are still at risk of becoming phantom vehicles if all the lights are not turned on in low light.

Drivers are reminded to turn on all their lights at night and during inclement weather. Drivers should also use the ‘automatic’ setting on their headlights, if available.

To raise awareness about phantom vehicles and vehicle lighting, Transport Canada has teamed up with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) to renew its ‘SEE and be SEEN’ campaign, which raises awareness about vehicle lights with Canadian motorists. See:  



“Phantom vehicles have been a nuisance and a safety risk on Canada’s roads for many years and I’m proud our Government is doing something about it. The new measures we’re taking will improve nighttime visibility and safety for all Canadian road users. As more new vehicles are built to our lighting safety standard, phantom vehicles will eventually become ghosts of the past.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau,
Minister of Transport

“By aligning standards with our closest trading partner, the United States, and the European Union, we are demonstrating that regulatory cooperation can lead to both stronger protection for Canadian consumers and more opportunities for Canadian businesses.”

The Honourable Scott Brison,
President of the Treasury Board of Canada

“CAA is pleased to see Transport Canada acting on this important safety issue. Automatic rear lights will make our roads safer, and save lives. We’re also happy to see the coming into force of other safety measures, including giving the Minister the ability to order a company to recall a vehicle. This will strengthen consumer protection and the country’s vehicle recall regime.”

Ian Jack,
Managing Director, Communications and Government Relations, CAA

Quick facts

  • It is illegal to drive in all Canadian jurisdictions without headlights illuminated during low visibility conditions.

  • Phantom vehicles are one of the most frequent concerns raised by Canadians in writing with Transport Canada’s motor vehicle safety team.

  • The new lighting safety standard will update section 108 (lighting system and retroreflective devices) of Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations.

  • Canada’s new lighting safety standard is aligned with the United States in order to help economic growth, trade, and shipping on both sides of the border, without compromising safety.

  • Transport Canada first launched its “SEE and be SEEN” campaign in 2015. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) joined as a partner in the campaign in 2018.

Associated links


Delphine Denis
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport, Ottawa

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa

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