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RAC says the glare from bright car headlights is ‘dazzling’ more drivers





Car headlights on some vehicles are too bright and give-off too much of a glare for oncoming drivers, suggests new research by the RAC.

The breakdown organisation is now calling on the government to ‘urgently’ investigate the issue after a survey suggested many motorists think the problem is getting worse.

Drivers have reported increasing problems with headlight glare to the RAC. Image; iStock.
Drivers have reported increasing problems with headlight glare to the RAC. Image; iStock.

An increase in the number of vehicles being fitted with new LED headlights, has been suggested as a possible cause - with the new bulbs likely to give off a more intense and focussed beam than when compared to the conventional ‘yellower’ halogen bulb.

The study, among 2,000 drivers, found that 89% of those questionned think that some headlights are now too bright - with two thirds admitting to needing to slow down considerably until they can see properly again as a result of the oncoming glare.

The human eye can reportedly react differently to the light and focussed beam of the LED bulb. And while great at giving drivers a clear view of the road ahead, says the RAC, it is questionning whether the technology ‘could be to the detriment of other road users’.

The RAC is calling for the government to look into whether headlights are causing more issues. Image: iStock.
The RAC is calling for the government to look into whether headlights are causing more issues. Image: iStock.

As part of its study, the RAC also asked drivers to estimate how long it takes them to see clearly again after getting dazzled by other drivers’ lights.

While 68% reported it taking between one and five seconds, one-in-10 suggested it can take six seconds or more. That is enough for a driver travelling at 60mph to cover 160 metres, or the equivalent of 40 car lengths.

Alongside the increasing prevalence of LED lights, growing problems with the glare, suggests the research, could also be caused by badly aligned headlights.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in November 2023 shows that since 2019, an average of 1.6m, or 5%, of Class 4 vehicles – which includes passenger cars – failed their MOTs because of poor headlight aim.

Another possible cause is whether headlights are badly aligned. Image: iStock.
Another possible cause is whether headlights are badly aligned. Image: iStock.

The increasing popularity of cars that sit higher on the road – such as SUVs – may also be a factor with those in conventional cars such as hatchbacks, saloons or estates then suffering the most when those vehicles come towards them.

Government crash statistics shows that since 2013, there has been an average of 280 collisions a year where dazzling headlights were a contributory factor. But the actual number may in reality be higher, says the RAC, if an investigation was unable to determine whether or not a collision was directly or indirectly caused by the glare from another vehicle’s headlights.

The strength of feeling among drivers has prompted the motoring organisation to raise the issue with the Department for Transport. It is also working with a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Hayter, to make drivers’ concerns known among Government officials.

The RAC is calling for the government to look into whether headlights are causing more issues. Image: iStock.
The RAC is calling for the government to look into whether headlights are causing more issues. Image: iStock.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “We urgently need the Government to take a closer look at the issue, ideally by commissioning an independent study to understand what’s causing an increase in reports of dazzling and, most importantly, what can do be done to keep drivers safe.

“With spring still a long way off, there’s a good chance many people will do most of their driving in darkness over the next few months and, according to our research, that means an awful lot of drivers will experience the discomfort and even danger that comes from being dazzled by headlights.

“On the one hand, brighter headlights can be a good thing as they give drivers a clearer and safer view of the road view of the road, but that appears to come at a cost for those on the receiving end of excessively bright lights.”



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