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Dazzling Head Lights

Drivers concerned over bright headlights: Is headlight dazzling on the rise?

According to a recent survey, drivers are growing increasingly worried about the possibility of other drivers blinding them with their headlights, which could lead to an increase in traffic accidents.

An independent survey by the RAC found that 85% of drivers believe the issue is getting worse and that they have been partially blinded by the glare of bright headlights.

Three in ten, a higher percentage than ever, of the 2,000 UK licence holders surveyed by the motoring organisation believe that most headlights on cars are too bright, while 89% believe that at least some of them are.

The RAC attributes the spike in SUV ownership, drivers neglecting to adjust their headlights, and the latest blue-tint LED bulbs as some of the possible causes of the problem of dazzling.

Ninety-one percent of drivers who complained to the RAC about headlight brightness said they have been dazzled while driving in the past 12 months.

In the meantime, 75% of respondents claimed that they frequently experience partial blindness from other cars.

The problem has gotten so terrible in recent years that according to two out of three respondents, they have to reduce their speed significantly when they are experiencing headlight glare from another car and can’t accelerate until a short while later, when their vision is clear again.

Furthermore, 68% of respondents stated that it takes them one to five seconds to see well again, while 10% added that it takes them six or more seconds to regain full eyesight.

Concerningly, a driver going at 60 mph can travel 160 metres, or 40 car lengths, without being able to see adequately if they merely momentarily lose complete visibility for that amount of time.

Over three out of five drivers believe that the situation has gotten so bad that dazzling is now contributing to collisions.

Interestingly, 5% of these drivers admitted to the RAC that they have almost been in a crash themselves due to strong headlights temporarily impairing their vision.

Unbelievably, 7% of drivers indicated they avoid driving at night entirely due to spotlight glare on the roadways; this percentage jumps to 14% for drivers 65 and older.

According to the RAC, there is ample evidence that the number of drivers experiencing dazzling on the road is increasing, having conducted a yearly study and released publications on the subject since 2018. 

Four reasons for the increase of drivers being dazzled

1. ‘Yellower’ halogen bulbs are being replaced with blue-tint LED lights that are brighter

Although a study conducted by the RAC revealed that there is no one cause for the rise in headlight glare, 87% of confused motorists believe it is mostly because some lights simply seem to be much brighter than others.

The reason for this could be that more and more cars are being equipped with LED headlights, which provide a considerably more concentrated and strong beam than traditional ‘yellower’ halogen bulbs and to which the human eye responds differently. 

Although LED headlights greatly enhance a driver’s vision of the road ahead, they may cause harm to other drivers who come into contact with them.

2. Low-cost LED replacement bulbs

The use of inferior LED lights that may be bought online is another factor contributing to the increase in blinding while driving.

Cheap replacements, especially for older cars using halogen bulbs, can be dangerously bright or produce the wrong beam pattern, both of which can temporarily blind oncoming motorists.

In Britain, only bulbs with the ‘E’ mark are considered lawful; however, aftermarket LED modifications are not eligible to receive one of these recognised markings. This is due to the fact that there is currently no law prohibiting the use of LED technology in headlight units designed to use halogen lamps.

But it is hard to police this. Because it takes time to access the product, even MOT testers are not required to examine if a bulb is E designated.

For this reason, it’s usually advised to get replacement bulbs for your car from reliable suppliers like Osram and Philips.

3. Drivers not adjusting lights

From the drivers surveyed, more than two in five think the rise in dazzling is caused by badly aligned headlights.

According to a November 2023 Freedom of Information request made to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, since 2019, an average of 1.6 million, or 5%, of cars have had their MOTs refused because of inadequate headlight aim.

Furthermore, the actual number may be significantly higher given that the DVSA reported in 2016 that “headlamp aim consistently tops the MOT compliance survey as one of the most likely items to be assessed incorrectly by testers.”

4. Increasing popularity of SUVs

The RAC claims that the increased chance of getting dazzled at night is also a result of the growth in SUV sales.

They run the risk of blinding incoming drivers in traditional cars because their lights are positioned higher than those of a hatchback or saloon due to their higher off-the-ground position. 

Sixty-two percent of drivers of non-SUV models attribute the increase in dazzling to cars with higher trim levels, while only thirty-five percent of drivers of higher trim levels blame cars with similar sizes.

Older motorists are more likely to be impacted by dazzling

The College of Optometrists’ director of knowledge and research, Mike Bowen, also mentioned that elderly drivers are more likely to experience blind spots on the road.

“The results from this research by the RAC are helpful to inform our understanding of how changes in vehicle headlight technologies may be affecting both the functional vision of young and older drivers, and their visual comfort, when driving at night,” he said.

“Older drivers are likely to be disproportionately affected by headlight glare, so may be more likely to experience difficulties or to decide not to drive at night at all.

“We urge the Government to commission more technical and clinical research to have a better understanding of this issue and what should be done to ease the effects of dazzling headlights.”

Stunningly bright headlights can pose “significant road safety risks for drivers, affecting their visibility and potentially leading to accidents,” according to John Kushnick, legal operations director at National Accident Helpline. He urged drivers to report vehicles with blinding lights to the police.

He advised: “It’s crucial for drivers to remain vigilant on the roads, stay aware of the potential hazards caused by dazzling headlights, and take proactive measures to mitigate the risks. 

“Additionally, road safety authorities and vehicle manufacturers play a role in establishing and enforcing regulations to ensure that vehicle lighting systems adhere to safety standards.

“It’s important for drivers to remember to play it safe if you cannot see due to the bright headlights; slow down, avoid all challenging manoeuvres, and do not pull out of a side road.”

RAC urges the Government to get involved

According to government crash data, blinding headlights have been a contributing cause in an average of 280 collisions per year since 2013. 

Six of these resulted in a fatality each year. 

If an investigation could not establish whether headlight glare from another vehicle caused a collision directly or indirectly, the actual figure might be greater.

The RAC has contacted a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Hayter, to make drivers’ concerns known to the Department for Transport. 

MPs will be given the results of this most recent study to examine this month.

“Our figures suggest drivers are more concerned than ever about headlight glare, with a huge proportion wanting to see something done about it,” RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis stated. 

“We urgently need the Government to take a closer look at the issue, ideally by commissioning an independent study to understand what’s causing an increase in reports of dazzling and, most importantly, what can do be done to keep drivers safe.”

Baroness Hayter added: “The RAC has demonstrated that some car headlights can dazzle, causing a danger for oncoming drivers.

“We know drivers in other countries share this concern.

“So, government should take action now to be on the side of road safety and ensure everyone keeps to the Highway Code, which states drivers must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle other road users.”

Nicholas Lyes, director of policy and standards at IAM RoadSmart, also addressed the growing number of drivers experiencing headlight glare, as reported by This is Money’s motoring team: “Drivers are increasingly telling us they are concerned by modern headlights, and some are now even limiting the amount of time they spend driving during darkness to avoid glare.

“Being dazzled by a headlight has a worrying impact on road safety and we need policymakers to take this matter seriously.”

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