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Blinded by the lights: New study to look into effect of ultra-bright car headlights

By Jodie Chay Oneill | April 7, 2024

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The government will be commissioning a study into the issue as more drivers feel it is a concern that needs addressing.

Blinded by the lights: New study to look into effect of ultra-bright car headlights

Headlights are the most important part of your vehicle when it comes to driving at night. They allow you to have a clear view of the road ahead while allowing other road users to see your presence from afar.

However, modern cars are now becoming bigger and taller, and with the boom in popularity of SUVs in recent years, drivers of smaller vehicles may find that modern LED lights from SUVs are dazzling them at night.

Headlamp glare and dazzling can be very dangerous because they can disrupt your view of the road and can cause serious accidents. It can also hamper a driver’s confidence when driving at night. 

So what’s the government going to do about it? And how has the issue come to the fore recently?

Here are some questions answered regarding the headlamp glare issue.

How did the headlamp glare issue get noticed by the government?

The RAC recently conducted a survey of 2,000 drivers and found that 9-in-10 drivers were affected by headlamp glare.

The research also looked into how long drivers were having to wait for their eyesight to return fully after being dazzled. Some 68 per cent said between one to five seconds and one in 10 said six or more when travelling at 60mph – causing 160 metres of blind driving.

A petition was started on the government website regarding the issue into headlamp glare and currently has received nearly 12,000 signatures to date which has prompted the government to look into further evidence and to commission independent research soon.

What does it take to discuss the issue in Parliament?

In order for the issue to be taken to Parliament and discussed in a debate, the online petition would need to reach at least 100,000 signatures. 

It would then lead to ministers debating in the House of Commons and Q&A’s towards the Prime Minister about the issue.

How long has the issue been present?

Headlamp glare has been an issue for many years, however, the RAC raised the issue in 2018 with government data showing that there are around 300 accidents every year regarding dazzling headlights.

How can I stop being dazzled by other road users?

The first rule to reduce glare is to always use your rear-view mirror properly. Nearly every car has a dipping rear-view mirror which helps reduce glare at night. Whether it be an automatic dipping or a manual mirror, they all serve the same purpose - by flicking the mirror into the night position will reduce the glare of drivers behind you.

Many modern cars also have self-dimming side mirrors, too. This can also help reduce glare at night.

Another simple check to make to reduce glare is to make sure your windscreen is clean. It may sound daft, but a dirty windscreen can play havoc with lighting as grit, dirt and mud can all make light scatter – reducing your vision and causing a greater risk of having an accident.

You may want to speak with your optician, too. If you suffer from bad eyesight and you wear glasses or find it difficult to see at night, talk to your optometrist for advice and what they can offer. Many glasses these days come with lenses that can adjust to the light to reduce glare – even from the headlights.

How can I reduce headlight glare?

To make sure you're not dazzling other road users, make sure your headlights are correctly adjusted and that they are in the correct setting. All cars have an annual check on their MOT for headlamp adjustment, which can throw up any issues with them. 

Furthermore, cars have a headlight alter to adjust the headlamp aim depending on what load you’re carrying. Normally, there are three settings which enable the driver to switch between low, middle and high aims depending on how many passengers are being transported or how much luggage is being carried. 

Cars under load will be lower causing their headlight beams to become higher. If you carry a lot of passengers with a lot of luggage, make sure the headlight setting is set to the highest setting. If you drive regularly with no passengers and very little luggage the headlight setting should be set to zero.

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