The Dilemma of Bright Headlights at Night

Apr 3, 2024 | Insights

Bright headlights are a real problem for many and it seems it’s finally being recognised as an issue, thanks in part to the RAC.

In the quiet solitude of night-time driving, the sudden appearance of another vehicle can transition swiftly from a sign of life to a blinding beacon, courtesy of modern car headlights.

This issue, long-standing and widely lamented, has prompted the government to take action, spurred by a compelling campaign led by the RAC and the voices of over 10,000 concerned motorists.

The root of the concern lies in a recent poll involving 2,000 UK drivers, which revealed an overwhelming consensus.

  • 89% believe some car headlights are excessively bright, casting an uncomfortable glare that not only hampers visibility but also raises the stakes for road safety.
  • A staggering 85% of participants noted that this problem seems to be on the rise, painting a grim picture of our illuminated roadways.

Responding to this growing unease, the government has announced plans to delve deeper into the phenomenon of headlight dazzle.

This decision follows a robust petition and the persistent advocacy of the RAC, which highlighted the distressing statistic that an average of 280 road collisions annually, including six fatal accidents, are attributed to the disorienting effects of headlight glare.

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The Department for Transport (DfT) is now poised to undertake research aimed at unpacking the causes behind this glare and exploring potential solutions to keep drivers safe.

This initiative comes in the wake of findings suggesting that modern LED headlights while enhancing the driver’s visibility, can be particularly jarring for oncoming vehicles and traffic.  The bright lights can also lead to headaches and migraines for more sensitive drivers.

Other contributing factors of dazzling headlights are things such as the increasing prevalence of higher-set vehicles and misaligned headlights, are also under scrutiny.

Modern vehicles often have adaptive driving beams which automatically switch on and off – sometimes they switch off too late bliding drivers with a focused beam and high light intensity raising the risk of accidents.

One of the biggest bugbears is when lights dazzle in the rearview mirror and whilst they can be flipped down, this then hampers the view behind and makes it difficult to keep an eye on other road users whilst driving at night.  It can also lead to increased fatigue, another major road safety risk.

As part of a broader response to the issue, the DfT has engaged in international efforts to mitigate bright headlights dazzle. This includes new UN-backed regulations mandating automatic headlight levelling in new cars based on their weight, set to be implemented by September 2027.

These regulations represent a significant step forward in addressing the issue, promising to reduce instances of glare.

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The RAC, through its road safety spokesperson, Rod Dennis, has warmly welcomed the government’s commitment to research. Dennis sees this as a pivotal moment to thoroughly understand and ultimately curtail the adverse effects of bright headlights.

The sentiment is echoed by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who celebrated the government’s acknowledgement of the issue as a triumph for affected drivers everywhere.

This movement towards a brighter, safer driving experience marks a significant chapter in the ongoing dialogue between road users, safety advocates, and policymakers.

As the government embarks on its research, the hope is that the findings will illuminate a path to mitigating the blinding glare of modern headlights, ensuring the roads are safe and comfortable for all who travel them by night.

What’s your experience of bright headlights at night? Let us know

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