Blinded by the lights

Photo: Pat Whelen at Pexels

Research conducted among 2,694 motorists from the RAC Opinion Panel, concluded that nine-in-ten drivers (89%) think some or most car headlights on the UK’s roads are too bright, with an overwhelming majority of these (88%) saying they get dazzled by them while driving.

The problem of glare from headlights appears to be getting worse, with drivers saying it’s happening more often than a year or two ago. Of those surveyed who believe headlights are too bright, many think they risk causing other drivers to have collisions, while two-in-three say they can’t tell if the headlights of oncoming cars are dipped or on full beam.

Contrary to what might be expected, it’s younger rather than older drivers who are more likely to complain about the apparent brightness of headlights and the effect this has on their driving. The brightness of some car headlights even appears to be putting motorists off driving at night.

While it’s clear that a lot of drivers appear to be suffering from the problems caused by headlight dazzle, many are uncertain as to the causes. Some blamed the LED headlights fitted to an increasing number of modern vehicles. Nearly one-in-five said they felt the problems are caused by the angle of oncoming vehicles’ beams. The research suggests that the increasing prevalence of vehicles that sit higher on the road, specifically SUVs, might also be exacerbating the problem for those in conventional cars that sit much lower.

Motorists’ complaints about the impact some headlights are having on their driving isn’t new, with the RAC first raising the topic in 2018. At the time, the RAC highlighted that the regulations that govern vehicle lighting are decided on at a United Nations level, with input from UK Government. Nearly four years on, drivers remain overwhelmingly supportive of the matter being looked into.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “…the brighter and better your vehicle’s headlights are, the clearer your night-time view of the road ahead is, often it seems at the expense of anyone coming towards you. The full intensity of your headlights – especially if they’re not angled down correctly – can cause oncoming drivers to momentarily glance away from the road or even be blinded for a few seconds. In short, being dazzled isn’t just about discomfort, it also represents a significant road safety risk.”

What can you do if I find you’re getting dazzled?

  • Speak to your optician. Eight per cent of respondents to the RAC survey said they’d talked to their optician about glare. For those who wear glasses, a special coating can be added that can go cut down on glare.
  • Make sure you adjust your rear-view mirror. While some cars have self-dimming rear-view mirrors or tinted rear windows, most require you to manually adjust the mirror in the dark. Doing so can cut down on glare.

Am I actually causing other drivers to be dazzled?

It can be difficult to know whether you’re causing discomfort to other drivers from your car’s headlights, and the only way you might know is if you see them flashing their lights at you.

Check your car’s manual to find out if you can adjust the angle of your headlights from a dial on the dashboard, depending on the load you are carrying. If not, and you think there may be a problem with the aim of your headlights, contact a reliable approved garage or main dealer as soon as you can to get them checked.

Whatever you do, don’t be one of the 8% of drivers who say they try to physically adjust the headlight aim themselves. Figures from the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in 2018 showed that of the 26.5m MOT tests completed that year for Class 4 vehicles (which includes cars), 6% failed as result of headlamp aim problems.

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