Nine-in-10 drivers (89%) think some or most car headlights on the UK’s roads are too bright, with an overwhelming majority of these (88%) saying they get dazzled by them while driving, a new RAC study of 2,700 drivers’ views has found.
The problem of glare from headlights appears to be getting worse with 63% of drivers who get dazzled saying it’s happening more often than a year or two ago, with one-in-four (23%) claiming they’re now dazzled a lot more regularly.
Of all of those who believe headlights are too bright, a huge 64% think they risk causing other drivers to have collisions while two-in-three (67%) say they can’t tell if the headlights of oncoming cars are dipped or on full beam.
Contrary to what might be expected, it’s younger rather than older drivers who are more likely to complain about the apparent brightness of headlights and the effect this has on their driving.
Three-in-10 (30%) of those aged 17-34 think most are too bright, compared to just 19% of those aged 65 and over. Meanwhile, of those younger drivers who believe some, if not most, car headlights they see are too bright, 70% think the accident risk is increased – while for drivers aged 65-plus the proportion is 62%.
The brightness of some car headlights even appears to be putting motorists off driving at night. Sixteen per cent of those who complain about the intensity of headlights say they avoid driving at night altogether, with women (22%) and those aged 65 and over (25%) much more likely to say they deliberately don’t drive after dark than men (9%).
The RAC’s research also asked dazzled drivers to estimate how long it typically takes for them to be able to see clearly again. While most (65%) said it took between one and five seconds, one-in-10 (12%) said it took upwards of six seconds.
Being unable to see for one second while driving at 60mph means a driver would travel around 13 metres (more than six car lengths), but being blinded for six seconds would see them covering an enormous 160 metres (the equivalent of 40 car lengths), which suggests headlight glare could be compromising safety on the roads.
The RAC’s research suggests that the increasing prevalence of vehicles that sit higher on the road, specifically SUVs, might also be exacerbating the problem for those in conventional cars that sit much lower, like hatchbacks, saloons and estates.
Six-in-10 drivers (61%) of lower vehicles who said they suffered from glare blamed the headlights on taller vehicles, yet just 28% of drivers of taller vehicles blamed others in similar vehicles.
Motorists’ complaints about the impact some headlights are having on their driving isn’t new, with the RAC first raising the topic in 2018. At the time, the RAC highlighted that the regulations that govern vehicle lighting, including headlights, are decided on at an international (United Nations) level, with input from UK Government.
Nearly four years on, drivers remain overwhelmingly supportive of the matter being looked into with 82% saying they’d like something done to help reduce headlight glare.