The SUV Boom And Bright LEDs Increasing Headlight Glare

As reported in the news recently, a new report reveals growing concerns among drivers about the dangers of being dazzled by bright headlights, potentially leading to more accidents. In an independent survey by the RAC, stats showed that 85% of 2,000 UK drivers reported being partially blinded by intense headlights, with 89% believing some headlights are too bright. This can be attributed to factors such as the SUV vehicle boom and bright LEDs increasing headlight glare. Of those complaining, 91% experienced dazzle in the past year, and 75% regularly face partial blindness. This issue has led to reduced speeds for two-thirds of drivers, with recovery times of one to six seconds, raising concerns about safety and accidents. In fact, 5% reported near collisions due to temporary eyesight impairment, prompting 7% to avoid night driving altogether. The RAC, having monitored this concern since 2018, emphasises this growing problem.

Four reasons for increased headlight dazzling:

  1. Brighter LED Lights: Cars with blue-tint LED headlights create a more intense and focused beam. Whilst being effective for the driver of the vehicle, this leads to increased glare and reflection, compared to traditional halogen bulbs.
  2. Cheap LED Aftermarket Bulbs: Substandard LED bulbs purchased online, especially for older cars using halogen bulbs, can be dangerously bright. They may also produce the wrong beam pattern, temporarily blinding oncoming motorists.
  3. Poor Headlight Alignment: Over 40% of drivers believe the rise in dazzling is due to misaligned headlights. Since 2019, an average of 1.6 million cars failed their MOTs due to poor headlight aim, contributing to the issue.
  4. SUV Popularity: The growing popularity of SUVs contributes to increased dazzling risk. Their elevated position means lights are higher, potentially shining directly into the faces of oncoming motorists in conventional cars. Non-SUV drivers (62%) attribute the spike in dazzling to higher vehicles, while only 35% of SUV drivers share the same concern.

Dazzling headlights are more likely to affect older drivers

Dazzling headlights are more likely to affect older drivers, according to Mike Bowen, Director of Knowledge and Research at the College of Optometrists. He emphasised the need for further research on how changes in headlight technologies impact drivers’ functional vision and comfort, especially at night. Older drivers may face increased difficulties or choose to avoid night driving altogether, due to headlight glare. Advocating for government-backed research, Bowen stressed the importance of understanding and addressing the issue. John Kushnick, Legal Operations Director at National Accident Helpline, highlighted the significant safety risks posed by blinding headlights, urging drivers to report such incidents to the police. He emphasised driver vigilance, proactive measures, and the role of road safety authorities and manufacturers in enforcing lighting system regulations to ensure safety standards are met. If visibility is compromised, drivers are advised to slow down or avoid challenging manoeuvres.

RAC wants the Government to get involved

Government collision data reveals an average of 280 yearly collisions since 2013 attributed to dazzling headlights, with six fatalities annually. The RAC, expressing driver concerns, contacted Baroness Hayter to inform the Department for Transport. The findings will be presented to MPs for discussion. RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis emphasises the need for government intervention, urging an independent study to understand the rise in dazzling incidents and ensure road safety. Baroness Hayter calls for immediate action to align with road safety regulations, citing concerns shared by drivers in other countries. Nicholas Lyes from IAM RoadSmart highlights the growing worry among drivers about modern headlights impacting safety, urging policymakers to address the issue seriously.

How to limit the impact of glare and prevent dazzling others

Slow down at night

If the glare from an oncoming vehicle at night is so bad that you temporarily can’t see anything, you should slow down to reduce the risk of the impact on your impaired visibility.

However, avoid slowing or stopping abruptly as you don’t want a car that is travelling behind you running into the back of you.

Don’t look directly at oncoming headlights

To prevent yourself from being dazzled, never look directly at the headlights of other cars. Look to the left-hand side of the road and follow the white line marking the edge if there is one, so you can keep track of your position, the RAC recommends.

Make sure your windscreen is clear 

Windscreens are particularly susceptible to steaming up on the inside, especially in cold weather. Car heaters can also blow dirty air at the glass, causing a hazy film to build up on the inside. This can increase glare from oncoming headlamps, so ensure yours is clean and clear.

Adjust your rear-view mirror 

Drivers at night should dip the rear-view mirror to reduce the risk of being dazzled by motorists following them. Many new motors in showrooms today have an auto-dimming rear-view mirror function. If your car doesn’t then you should be dipping the mirror manually.

Consider anti-glare glasses

If being dazzled by other drivers’ headlights or street lighting is an issue, motorists should consider anti-glare glasses when driving at night. At Focus Medical Eye Centre, this is something we can help with. The Essilor Varilux Road Pilot is a brilliant lens for combating reflections from on-coming light.

Use low beams where possible to safeguard other drivers

Use your low-beam headlights instead of high beams when driving in well-lit areas or when approaching other vehicles.

Regularly adjust your headlights

Ensure that your headlights are correctly aimed. If you are travelling with heavy loads, this can also impact the height of your lights beam. Misaligned headlights not only contribute to blinding other drivers, but will also reduce your own visibility.

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