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DAZED: Call for Government to tackle growing headlight glare concerns

Updated: Jan 12

The RAC has called upon the Government to initiate an impartial investigation into the growing concern of headlight glare on the nation's roads. New research conducted by the RAC reveals that a staggering 85% of those affected by this issue believe that it is becoming increasingly problematic.

In a comprehensive survey encompassing 2,000 drivers, the RAC unearthed some troubling statistics. An overwhelming 89% of respondents expressed the view that at least some of the headlights on modern vehicles are excessively bright, with an alarming 28% of them asserting that the majority of headlights they encounter fall into this category. Of those who voiced concerns about headlight brightness, a resounding 91% reported experiencing dazzlement while driving, with a significant 74% deeming this to be a recurring occurrence.

The consequences of such glare are worrisome. Two-thirds (67%) of affected drivers admitted to significantly reducing their speed until visibility was restored, while an equivalent proportion (64%) believed that excessively bright headlights posed a risk of causing accidents. Shockingly, 5% of those affected confessed to coming perilously close to collisions themselves.

Perhaps most concerning is the revelation that nearly 7% of drivers are so troubled by headlight glare that they choose to avoid night-time driving altogether. This figure rises to 14% for drivers aged 65 and over, highlighting the disproportionate impact of this issue on certain demographics.

The RAC's research further disclosed that, in the event of being dazzled by other drivers' lights, 68% of respondents estimated it took them between one and five seconds to regain clarity. However, an alarming 11% reported a recovery time of six seconds or more. This prolonged recovery period, equivalent to covering 160 meters at 60mph, underscores the severity of the problem.

The exact reasons behind the perceived increase in headlight glare are multifaceted. A significant 87% of those affected attribute the issue to the intensity of certain headlights, often seen in cars equipped with LED headlights that emit a more focused and intense beam. While these headlights improve the driver's visibility, they may inadvertently compromise the comfort and safety of other road users.

Additionally, 44% of affected drivers believe that misaligned headlights contribute to the problem. Disturbingly, a Freedom of Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) revealed that an average of 5% of Class 4 vehicles, including passenger cars, failed their MOTs due to poor headlight aim since 2019. This alarming trend raises concerns about the accuracy of headlamp aim assessments during MOT tests.

Furthermore, the growing prevalence of taller vehicles, particularly SUVs, may exacerbate the issue, with 62% of conventional car drivers attributing dazzling to higher vehicles, while only 35% of SUV drivers share this perspective.

Despite the complexities surrounding the causes of headlight glare, it is evident that drivers are resolute in their demand for action. A resounding 81% of respondents believe that more should be done to address this problem, a sentiment that intensifies among the 45 to 54 age group, with 87% expressing the same sentiment.

Government collision statistics illustrate the tangible consequences of headlight glare, with an annual average of 280 collisions since 2013 where dazzling headlights played a contributory role. Tragically, six of these incidents resulted in fatalities. These figures may underestimate the true impact, as some collisions may be indirectly attributed to headlight glare.

In response to these concerns, the RAC has taken proactive steps to raise the issue with the Department for Transport and collaborate with Baroness Hayter, a member of the House of Lords, to advocate for drivers' concerns among Government officials. The RAC has provided its research findings for a report and is scheduled to engage in discussions with the Government this month to address this pressing matter.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Our figures suggest drivers are more concerned than ever about headlight glare, with a huge proportion wanting to see something done about it. 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.

“The numbers of reported road casualties where headlight glare was listed as a contributing factor might be small when compared to something like speeding, but that only tells part of the story. Is it right we have such a high proportion of drivers who feel unsafe when they’re driving at night, with some having even given up night-time trips altogether?”


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