The RAC is pushing for the government to commission an independent study into the increasing issue of headlight glare. This call for action follows new research revealing that 85% of affected individuals believe the problem is intensifying. The RAC's survey of 2,000 drivers has highlighted a widespread concern, with nine out of ten respondents (89%) indicating that some car headlights on today's roads are excessively bright. Alarmingly, 28% believe that most headlights are too bright, marking the highest proportion with this view to date.
Dazzling Headlights: A Growing Road Menace
Of the drivers who raised concerns about headlight brightness, a staggering 91% report being dazzled while driving, with 74% experiencing this regularly. The impact of glare on drivers is significant, with two-thirds (67%) stating they have to slow down considerably to regain clear vision. Moreover, 64% believe that some headlights are so bright they pose a risk of causing accidents. In a concerning revelation, 5% of these drivers confessed to nearly being involved in a collision due to headlight glare.
Avoiding Night Driving Due to Glare
The issue has escalated to the extent that nearly one in ten drivers (7%) now avoid driving at night due to the severity of headlight glare. This figure rises to 14% among drivers aged 65 and over. Since the RAC began surveying drivers on this issue in 2018, the problem has only worsened, with 85% of those affected now believing that headlight glare is an escalating issue.
The Dangers of Dazzle: Disturbing Statistics
The RAC's study also delved into how long it takes drivers to recover their vision after being dazzled. While 68% reported a recovery time of one to five seconds, 11% stated it takes six seconds or more. At a speed of 60mph, this delay can result in a driver covering a distance of 160 meters, equivalent to 40 car lengths, potentially leading to dangerous situations on the road.
Underlying Causes of Headlight Glare
The reasons behind the increasing headlight glare issue are multifaceted. A dominant theory, held by 87% of dazzled drivers, is that some lights are inherently brighter. This could be attributed to the growing use of LED headlights, which produce a more intense beam that affects the human eye differently compared to traditional halogen bulbs. While LEDs enhance the driver’s view, they can detrimentally impact other road users.
Additionally, 44% of drivers believe that the glare results from poorly aligned headlights. A Freedom of Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) revealed that since 2019, around 1.6 million Class 4 vehicles failed their MOTs due to poor headlight aim. Given the DVSA's 2016 statement that headlamp aim is often incorrectly assessed in MOTs, the actual figures could be higher.
The Role of Vehicle Height in Headlight Glare
The increasing popularity of higher-sitting vehicles, like SUVs, also contributes to the problem. Six in ten drivers (62%) of conventional cars attribute the glare to higher vehicles, while only 35% of those in higher vehicles blame similarly sized vehicles.
Drivers Demand Action
The strength of feeling among drivers on this issue is evident, with 81% asserting that more should be done to address it. This figure rises to 87% among drivers aged 45 to 54. Government collision statistics further underscore the seriousness of the issue. Since 2013, there has been an average of 280 collisions per year where dazzling headlights were a contributory factor, with six of these incidents resulting in fatalities annually. It's worth noting that the actual number could be higher due to challenges in determining the direct or indirect impact of headlight glare in collision investigations.
RAC's Efforts to Address Headlight Glare
In response to these growing concerns, the RAC has taken the initiative to engage with the Department for Transport. Working with Baroness Hayter, a member of the House of Lords, the RAC is making strides to bring drivers' concerns to the attention of government officials. The organization has provided details of its research for a report published last week and is scheduled to meet with the government this month to discuss the findings.
Conclusion: A Call for Action
The RAC's advocacy for an independent study into headlight glare is a critical step in addressing a problem that affects a significant number of drivers. With the potential risks associated with this issue, including accidents and avoidance of night driving, it is imperative that the government takes decisive action to investigate and mitigate the factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of headlight glare on UK roads.
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