If you’ve ever been dazzled by an oncoming car’s headlights, you certainly aren’t alone.
A 2023 study by the RAC found that 89% of drivers think some or most car headlights on the UK’s roads are too bright, with 91% saying they get dazzled by them while driving. And 85% of motorists polled say the problem seems to be getting worse…

Easy As Hack

If you experience an intense glare, try to slow down and avoid looking directly into any oncoming headlights.

At a glance

1. LED lights used in newer cars are brighter than traditional halogen bulbs 

2. The government is reviewing the issue of dazzling car headlights

3. You can avoid dazzle by adjusting your rearview mirror to the anti-glare setting

Do bright headlights cause accidents?

In the RAC survey, 64% of drivers said they believe some headlights are so bright they risk causing accidents.

This is backed up by the most recent data published by the government, which shows that dazzling headlights do play a part in accidents on our roads every year.

It 2022, there were 211 accidents where dazzling headlights were a contributory factor. Of these, three were fatal.

Why are car headlights so bright?

One of the main reasons car headlights are appearing to get brighter is because of advancements in lighting technology. Newer cars use LED headlights, which are more vivid than traditional ‘yellower’ halogen bulbs.

Although LED headlights for cars have many benefits because they illuminate the road more clearly and improve visibility, they can be blinding for other drivers, especially those approaching from the opposite direction.

Another reason for bright headlights is the increasing popularity of cars that sit higher in the road, particularly SUVs. This causes a more direct and intense beam of light, which can be blinding to motorists in cars that sit lower in the road such as hatchbacks and estates.

Some headlights can also be badly aligned, causing excessive glare to oncoming traffic.

What does the law say on car headlights?

There is no law against having bright headlights in the UK, although headlights do need to meet international standards. These haven’t been updated in decades, although a review is underway and motoring organisations are calling on the government to take urgent action to address the problem of dazzling lights. Potential changes could include introducing a maximum level of acceptable brightness.

Rule 114 of the Highway Code states that “you must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders”. However, there are no specific regulations on brightness or intensity.

How can you avoid getting dazzled?

There are a few things you can do if you find you’re constantly being affected by bright headlights while you’re driving.

Adjust your rearview mirror

A simple step when driving at night is to flick your rearview mirror from its normal setting to the anti-glare setting. The switch is normally at the bottom of the rearview mirror, and it tilts the mirror so that, while you can still see perfectly behind you, the lights don’t seem as bright.

Some cars now come with a mirror that adjusts to the anti-glare setting automatically. Once it detects that the amount of light from behind you is greater than that coming from the front, it switches on, dimming any potential glare.

Keep your windscreen clean

Making sure that your windscreen is clean and grime-free, both on the inside and outside, can make a big difference to glare.

If your windows are dirty or streaky, then any light that hits the window is scattered, which can cause far more glare and impede your visibility.

See our guide for more basic winter car maintenance tips.

Turn down your dashboard lights

It’s not just your windscreen that you need to think about ‒ if your dashboard lights are overly bright, they too can dazzle you when driving at night. As a result, it may also be worth reducing the brightness of the lights on your own dashboard.

As with windows, making sure the dashboard is clean will reduce any glare too.

Talk to your optician

The dazzle from car headlights can be worse if you already have problems with your eyes. If this is the case, then your eyesight may also take longer to return to normal after you’re dazzled.

You can get glasses or contact lenses with special coatings which will reduce glare, but it’s worth speaking to your optician.

Think about other drivers

Just as you should take steps to reduce the chances of other drivers dazzling you, it’s also important to reduce any glare you might be causing.

It’s worth seeing if your car automatically adjusts its headlights based on the weight of the load you’re carrying. If not, you can manually adjust them yourself by consulting the manual. That’s important because the aim of the headlight beam changes based on the weight in the car. So, if you don’t adjust it, you could be dazzling other drivers without realising it.

It’s also a good idea to be extra vigilant when driving with your own full beams on. Be sure to dip the lights as soon as you see headlights from other vehicles approaching.

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