Government to study headlight dazzle

close up view of white car on street

In response to an online petition on headlight dazzle, the Government has agreed to commission a study on the subject.

It follows RAC research indicating that drivers are reporting an increase in headlight glare.

Since 2018, the RAC has been polling drivers about dazzling headlights; yet, recent results from a survey of 2,000 drivers indicate that 85% of them think it is more commonplace.

Additionally, 89% of drivers believe that at least some headlights are excessively bright, with three in ten (28%) believing that most are—the highest percentage ever recorded.

Ninety-one percent of drivers who voiced complaints about the brightness of car headlights claimed to be blinded while driving, with seventy-four percent reporting this occurs frequently.

Responding to the petition set up by a member of the public following campaigning on the issue by the RAC, the Government said: “Recognising the need for further evidence (regarding headlight glare), we intend to commission independent research shortly.”

It stated that in order to guarantee that they are both bright enough to illuminate the road and do not obstruct other drivers’ vision, all vehicle headlamps are tested and designed in accordance with international standards.

“The standards define the beam pattern and include maximum and minimum light intensities,” it added.

“We know that lots of people raise concerns about headlight glare – but also that the police collision statistics don’t show any underlying road safety issue.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) brought up the matter to the United Nations international expert panel on vehicle lighting because of the deficiency of evidence.

In April 2023, it was decided to change the headlamp aiming regulations and to make automatic headlamp levelling mandatory. This system adjusts the headlamps’ aim automatically according to the weight of the car, such as when passengers are seated in the backseat or there is luggage in the boot.

The statement continued: “The transitional provisions permit sufficient time for vehicle manufacturers to redesign their products and adapt the manufacturing process, with the tighter tolerances expected to come into effect in September 2027.

“Once implemented, these tougher requirements will help alleviate the number of cases where road users are dazzled.”

Furthermore, according to the DfT, it intends to commission independent research in order to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of driver glare and determine any other suitable mitigations.

RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “The fact the Government has listened to drivers’ concerns and heeded our calls to examine the complex issue of headlight glare in more detail marks a real turning point.

“The topic has undoubtedly struck a chord with motorists up and down the country, with many people contacting us directly to call for something to be done.”

According to Dennis, brighter headlights are obviously posing serious issues for other road users even though they provide drivers with a better view of the road ahead.

“As many as nine-in-10 drivers tell us they believe at least some car headlights are too bright, while 14% of drivers aged 65-plus say they have stopped driving altogether as a result of being dazzled,” he added.

“An independent study provides a golden opportunity for the Government and industry to get to the bottom of the problem, identify the factors involved and map out a way forward.

“We’re aware of regulatory changes being made at an international level that will hopefully make a difference in many years to come but are concerned that these alone may not be enough to address headlight dazzle.”

According to the RAC, there are also recognised inadequacies in the official road casualty data, which result in an inaccurate representation of the actual number of occurrences related to headlamp glare.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Transport to help ensure the study is as robust as possible and drivers’ voices are heard,” said Dennis.

The decision to launch an independent study, according to Baroness Hayter, is a win for all the drivers who have been inconvenienced by glare and have complained to their MP, signed the parliamentary petition, or visited an ophthalmologist for assistance, only to find out that the issue was with the headlights and not their eyes.

She concluded: “This is an issue the RAC has long campaigned on and I am delighted the Government has recognised there is a real problem. We look forward to discussing its research in due course.”

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