RAC blames bright LEDs for driver dazzle increase

According to a new report, drivers are increasingly concerned about the risk of being blinded by the headlights of other vehicles, potentially leading to an increase in road fatalities.

Eighty-five percent of drivers, according to an independent survey by the RAC, claim to have been partially blinded by the glare of brilliant headlights and believe the problem is worsening.

Eighty-nine percent of 2,000 UK licence holders surveyed by the motoring organisation believe that at least some car headlamps are excessively bright, with three in ten (a greater proportion than ever before) believing that the majority are.

The RAC identifies several potential causes for the rise in dazzling incidents, including the increased use of blue-tinted LED bulbs, drivers neglecting to modify their headlights, and the rising popularity of SUVs.

Ninety-one percent of drivers who have lodged complaints with the RAC regarding the intensity of car headlamps claim to have experienced dizziness while operating a motor vehicle within the past year.

In contrast, three-quarters of respondents reported being partially blinded by other vehicles frequently.

Dazzling Headlights: Escalating Safety Concerns

In recent years, the situation has deteriorated to the point where two-thirds of the panel state that when they experience glare from the headlamps of another vehicle, they are unable to regain their speed until a few moments later when they can see clearly.

Additionally, 68% of respondents reported that they lose the ability to see distinctly for a duration of one to five seconds, while an additional 10% stated that it takes six seconds or longer to regain their full vision.

Unfortunately, even a brief loss of complete visibility for such a duration is sufficient for a driver at 60 mph to traverse 160 meters (equivalent to 40 vehicle lengths) without regaining proper vision.

A significant majority of drivers, specifically three out of every five, assert that dazzle has escalated to the point where it is causing accidents.

In fact, 5% of these motorists reported to the RAC that they themselves came perilously close to being involved in a collision due to the temporary impairment of their vision caused by intense headlights.

Concerningly, 7% of drivers avoid driving at night because they find headlamp glare on the roads to be so severe at this time; this percentage increases to 14% for drivers aged 65 and older.

The RAC, which has conducted annual research and published reports on the number of motorists experiencing scintillating while driving since 2018, asserts that there is ample evidence that this is an issue that is increasing in significance.

Four reasons for the increase in dazzled drivers

In place of “yellower” halogen bulbs, blue-tinted LEDs shine brighter.

Although the RAC’s research indicates that there is no single cause for the rise in headlamp glare, 87% of perplexed drivers believe it is primarily because some lights appear significantly brighter.

This phenomenon might be attributed to the growing incidence of automobiles equipped with LED headlights, which produce a significantly brighter and more focused beam that elicits a distinct response from the human eye in comparison to the traditional halogen lamp (‘yellower’).

Although LED headlamps offer drivers enhanced visibility of the road ahead, they may cause inconvenience for other motorists when they come into contact with them.

Low-cost aftermarket LED LEDs

Additionally contributing to the increase in road dazzling is the use of low-quality LED bulbs available for purchase online.

Low-quality alternatives, particularly for older vehicles that still use halogen lamps, may emit an excessively bright beam or generate an incorrect beam pattern, both of which have the potential to momentarily obstruct the vision of approaching motorists.

In Britain, only light bulbs bearing the letter ‘E’ are considered lawful; however, aftermarket LED upgrades are not eligible for one of these certified marks. This is due to the absence of legislation permitting the use of LED technology in halogen-powered headlamp units.

Nonetheless, this is challenging to regulate. Furthermore, MOT examiners are not obligated to examine whether a bulb bears the E label, as doing so would require them to invest time in accessing the product.

For this reason, replacement bulbs for automobiles should always be sourced from reputable manufacturers, including Osram and Philips.

Motorists failing to adjust indicators

A majority of drivers surveyed, specifically two-fifths, attribute the increase in dazzling to improperly aligned headlamps.

A Freedom of Information application lodged with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in November 2023 reveals that, on average, 1.6 million vehicles, or 5%, of all vehicles have failed their MOTs since 2019 on account of inadequate headlight aim.

Moreover, the actual number may be considerably higher, given that the DVSA reported in 2016 that “headlamp aim consistently ranks first in the MOT compliance survey as one of the most prone items to be incorrectly assessed by testers.”

The rising demand for SUVs

The RAC also identifies the increase in SUV sales as a factor in the heightened risk of being illuminated at night.

Due to their greater altitude and consequently higher-positioned headlights compared to hatchbacks and saloons, these vehicles run the risk of directly illuminated paths for approaching commuters in conventional cars.

Sixty-two percent of drivers of non-SUV models attribute the increase in dazzling to vehicles of a higher altitude, while 35% of drivers in higher vehicles attribute it to vehicles of comparable size.

It is more probable that senior motorists will be dazed. The College of Optometrists’ director of knowledge and research, Mike Bowen, further stated that elderly motorists are more prone to experiencing dizziness while operating a motor vehicle.

Advocacy for Safer Headlights

“The findings of this RAC study contribute to our understanding of how changes in vehicle headlight technologies may affect the visual comfort and functional vision of young and elderly motorists while driving at night,” he explained.

“Due to the disproportionate impact of headlight glare on the elderly, they may encounter more challenges while driving at night or decide against it entirely.”

“We urge the government to fund additional clinical and technical research to gain a better understanding of this issue and determine how to mitigate the negative effects of dazzling headlights.”

This is Money was informed by John Kushnick, director of legal operations at National Accident Helpline, that blindingly bright headlights pose “significant road safety risks for drivers, affecting their visibility and potentially causing accidents.” Kushnick urged motorists to contact the police regarding vehicles equipped with such lights.

“It is critical for drivers to maintain vigilance on the roads, be cognizant of the potential dangers posed by bright headlights, and take proactive steps to reduce the risks,” he advised.

Road safety authorities and vehicle manufacturers are also involved in the formulation and implementation of regulations pertaining to the compliance of vehicle illumination systems with safety standards.

“When vision is impaired by bright headlights, drivers must remember to err on the side of caution by decreasing their speed, avoiding all difficult maneuvers, and refraining from pulling out of a side road.”

Gunmen attack Ecuadorโ€™s live TV studio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *