A recent report, chaired by Baroness Hayter and featuring input from experts such as IAM RoadSmart, the RAC, and lighting charity LightAware, has shed light on the dangers posed by ultra-bright modern car headlights. Titled ‘Modern Vehicle Headlights Dazzle Drivers and May Compromise Road Safety,’ the report highlights the risks faced by motorists, with some even giving up night driving altogether.
The primary concern revolves around the latest LED headlights found in most modern cars. Significantly brighter than traditional halogen headlights, a survey by the RAC indicates that 89% of drivers find them excessively bright. Moreover, a staggering 88% claim to have been dazzled by these headlights, with nearly two-thirds believing that the problem is rising.
This issue is not confined to the UK alone. Research from the US reveals that 15% of accidents are attributed to glare from headlights. Baroness Hayter emphasises the gravity of the situation, “Put simply, new technology’s innovative headlights, which might illuminate the road for the person behind the wheel, are a menace for oncoming vehicles or pedestrians. Yet our government is deaf to the issue.”
Why are modern headlights so bright?
The root of the problem lies in the intensity and spectrum of LED lights. Experts explain that the bluer spectrum of LED lights, as opposed to the yellower hue of older halogen headlights, disrupts night-adapted vision more significantly. Dr John Lincoln of LightAware notes, “Many modern headlights are incompatible with dark-adapted human eyesight, particularly for older drivers. They are too bright, too blue and are blinding over too long a distance. Regulation is required to cut the risk of accidents and reduce driver fatigue.”
The rise of SUVs, especially in built-up areas, adds another layer of complexity, as these vehicles can suddenly angle upwards when faced with obstacles like ‘sleeping policemen.’ Auto-dip headlight technology becomes an issue when vehicles suddenly appear as the computer has not dipped or angled the headlight in time.
What does the report recommend?
The report urges government intervention, calling for research to establish standards for brightness and blue light emissions. It advocates bringing together various stakeholders, including manufacturers, optometrists, drivers, standard setters, transport research experts, insurers, MOT testers, and lighting specialists, to collaborate on reducing this “modern-day menace.” The report says, “Let’s not wait for an accident caused by an on-coming car to realise that some of today’s headlights are not fit for purpose, given the dazzle they cause other road users.”
The RAC supports the need for independent research to identify the root causes of headlight glare. The report recommends involving the National Institute for Health Protection to examine how vehicle lighting causes discomfort and to set standards for brightness, glare, flicker, and colour temperature for vehicle headlights. It also proposes legal limits for the amount of blue light in vehicle headlights and guidelines for MOT tests regarding inappropriate aftermarket LED bulbs. The overarching goal is to address the glaring issue before it leads to accidents caused by blinding headlights.
What do you think about new headlights? Do you think there should be legal limits and requirements for each vehicle?