Government to investigate headlight glare

Campaigners applaud the move after research suggests headlights have become too bright and could cause accidents...

Headlights main image

The Government has pledged to commission an independent study into the problem of drivers being dazzled by the headlights of oncoming vehicles, after the issue was raised by the RAC, the College of Optometrists and Baroness Hayter, a member of the House of Lords. 

A member of the public also set up a petition calling for action to mitigate the effects of dazzling headlights, and this was signed by 10,000 people. 

The RAC has been surveying drivers on headlight glare since 2018, and the latest responses from 2000 drivers say that 85% of them believe the problem is getting worse. 

Using the T-Roc climate controls at night

Headlight glare is one of the most frequently cited problems raised by RAC members, with 89% of respondents to the latest survey stating that some car headlights are too bright, and 28% saying all headlights are too bright. Of those affected by the issue, 91% say they get dazzled when driving at night and 74% say it happens regularly. 

Each time they were dazzled by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, 67% of drivers said they had to slow down considerably until they could see clearly again. A similar proportion (64%) believe some headlights are so bright they risk causing accidents. For 7% of drivers the problem is so bad that they have given up driving at night; this figure doubles to 14% for drivers aged 65 and over.

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

“Is it right that such a high proportion of drivers feel unsafe when they’re driving at night, with some having even given up night-time trips altogether?” asks Rod. 

Baroness Hayter praised the Government's decision to investigate headlight glare, stating: “This is a victory for all those drivers affected by glare who’ve complained to their MP, signed the parliamentary petition, or indeed sought help from an optometrist – only to discover the problem was with headlights, and not their eyes.”

Headlight design is governed by international rules, and alongside announcing the study into headlight glare the Department for Transport confirmed that new regulations to make automatic headlight levelling mandatory will come into force from September 2027. They will ensure the angle of the light beam won’t be affected when a vehicle is loaded with people or luggage. 

Why are headlights dazzling more drivers? 

The RAC believes headlights appear brighter on modern cars because the use of LED, rather than traditional halogen bulbs, creates a more intense and focused beam. LED lights produce an intense beam of white-blue light that some people’s eyes can struggle to deal with, whereas halogen bulbs produce a more yellowy light that isn’t as harsh. 

Audi Q2 LED headlights

Another issue with LEDs is that if the headlight lenses get dirty this could cause light to refract and point in the wrong direction, so it’s important to wash your car’s headlights regularly. 

The issue of headlight glare can be exacerbated by the height of a vehicle; a large SUV will sit higher on the road and potentially dazzle drivers of smaller, lower vehicles. While the incoming legislation on automatic levelling for headlights will lessen the problem of dazzling headlights on the newest vehicles, it won’t address the issues drivers have with older vehicles. 

RAC research suggests that in some cases drivers could 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. It recommends asking to have the angle of your car’s headlights checked when you get it serviced to ensure the beam is being directed properly. 

What should you do if you are dazzled by headlights? 

If you are affected by headlight glare there are some things you can do to mitigate the effects. 

If you wear glasses to drive you could get a pair with an anti-glare coating that will dull down the light from headlights so it’s not so dazzling. 

Volkswagen Touareg night vision

Many newer cars have self-dimming rear view mirrors, which will adjust to reduce glare. You can also adjust your rear view mirror yourself if a vehicle behind you is causing glare. 

If you are dazzled by the lights of an oncoming vehicle, look to the left of the road away from the direction of the lights, and slow down, but don’t let your vehicle swerve across the road. Don’t close your eyes or put your car’s lights on high-beam headlights because that could cause the other driver to swerve and have an accident. 

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