Drivers who suffer glare from headlights say the problem is getting worse

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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 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 (60%) 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.

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.

Headlamp aim forms part of a vehicle’s MOT, and the requirements on garages to conduct this part of the test thoroughly were strengthened in 2016. Nonetheless, figures obtained by the RAC from the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) show that of the 26.5m MOT tests completed in 2018 for Class 4 vehicles (which includes cars) over three years of age, 6% still failed as result of problems with headlamp aim, the equivalent of nearly 1.6m vehicles. In 2016, the agency also stated that ‘headlamp aim consistently tops the MOT compliance survey as one of the most likely items to be assessed incorrectly by testers.’

I find I get dazzled regularly – what can I do?

  • Talk to your optician. If you wear glasses, a coating can be added that can go some way towards making it easier to see when you are faced with car headlights. A quarter (25%) of respondents to the RAC survey wear such glasses
  • Adjust your rear-view mirror more often. Unless your car has a self-dimming rear-view mirror, you can reduce glare from vehicles behind you by doing this – more than half (56%) of drivers who responded to the survey say they do this
  • When changing your car, look for one with a self-dimming rear-view mirror and even darkened glass(sometimes called ‘sunset glass’) when you next change your car. Both can be effective at reducing the bright light that reaches you

Am I actually causing glare myself?

  • Check to see if your car automatically levels its headlights depending on the load you are carrying –the vast majority of cars on the road don’t
  • If you don’t have automatically levelling headlights, always manually adjust them depending on the load you are carrying and according to the car’s manual. A single person driving with an empty boot needs a different setting compared to a single person plus a boot-load of luggage, or all five seats occupied and a fully-loaded boot
  • Ask to have the angle of your car’s headlights checked next time you have it serviced to ensure the beam is being directed properly

 

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