Half of regular drivers say they are suffering more from the effect of dazzling headlights than they were just 12 months ago, research conducted by the RAC has found.
The problem of glare – caused by a headlight’s beam having a dazzling effect for oncoming traffic – is experienced by an estimated 16.1m UK drivers, based on 91% of drivers responding saying ‘some’ or ‘most’ car headlights are too bright and 54% of these saying they are dazzled more regularly now than a year ago.
When asked how they are affected by glare, six-in-10 of those affected said they regularly get dazzled by oncoming headlights even though they are dipped, with a similar proportion being unable to tell if headlights are either dipped or on full beam. Forty-five per cent complained they get dazzled by headlights in their rear-view mirror, while a huge 70% believe some lights are so bright they represent an accident risk. In fact official government data shows there are around 300 collisions every year where dazzling headlights are a factor.
Drivers were less clear on the likely causes of glare however. Half (51%) blamed vehicles that sit higher on the road, such as increasingly popular sports utility vehicles (SUVs), for dazzling them although 41% said the problem was not caused by any particular type of vehicle.
Similarly, when it comes to lighting technologies, 55% believe ‘bluer’ xenon or the most modern LED headlights are to blame, but a similar number (51%) are not sure or can’t tell the difference between the types of lights.
The research also found that in some cases drivers themselves might be inadvertently causing glare – either by not adjusting their lights correctly, or by having badly-aligned lights. Forty-seven per cent of drivers either never adjust their car headlights up or down when carrying different loads, or don’t do it regularly enough – something that is important in avoiding causing other people to suffer from glare as the aim of the headlight beam is affected by the load in the vehicle.
A quarter of drivers (26%) meanwhile have suspected problems with a misaligned headlight, with 9% of this group either trying to sort the problem out themselves or ignoring it altogether – all of these scenarios are likely to lead to a dazzling effect that could cause other road users discomfort.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “The dazzling effect of another driver’s headlights isn’t just uncomfortable – in some cases it can be nothing short of dangerous, making us lose sight of the road for a short time. So it’s concerning to see that a greater proportion of drivers have reported problems with glare this year than last year.
“Among some drivers there is a perception that newer headlights cause more glare. But while a sizeable proportion claim it is the xenon headlights more often found in higher-end vehicles that are primarily to blame, a greater proportion either don’t know the difference between lights or aren’t sure.
“In reality, the issue of glare is a complex one and it’s not as straightforward as saying one type of lightbulb causes more of a dazzling effect than another – there are a range of reasons why a driver might be dazzled, from a slight misalignment of a headlight, the difference in ride height of different vehicles and even individual people’s vision. That explains why not every car headlight appears to be dazzling, with eight-in-10 drivers saying only some cause glare.
“Nonetheless, all headlights have to meet specific international standards, which motorists might be surprised to discover haven’t been updated since the 1960s and so do not take specific account of newer technologies like xenon and LED. And an overwhelmingly proportion of drivers – 84% – now want the UK Government to act to ensure the regulations are updated to remove the possibility of glare being a result of modern technology.”