The problem of ‘blinding’ car headlights – and how to stay safe on the road

LEDs emit a very directional light, meaning when pointed directly at you it appears much brighter than a halogen bulb. But the hue is much more like natural light. So if you drive a car with LEDs, you can see more in the dark.

Another advantage of LED lighting is that in the case of headlights composed of several units, parts of the lamp can switch on or off automatically depending on the road conditions. This is called matrix lighting and allows cars to provide drivers with maximum high beam illumination for the prevailing conditions and speeds without blinding oncoming drivers.

At least that’s the theory. I have tried these systems on numerous models over the years. At first they were terrible. After the early novelty, the first thing I would do is turn off the system to prevent other drivers from showing me their anger.

The systems have gotten better. But they still tend to blind oncoming drivers, especially on country roads.

A human driver can see an approaching car on a dark road even when cornering. Matrix systems do not have this anticipation and only switch off when they “see” the oncoming headlights. In fact, they have to wait until they blind another driver before adjusting.

Optometrist Fazlanie summed it up: “Brighter lights mean you can see danger more clearly. But if you also suffer from glare from other people’s headlights, that negates that advantage.”

What can we do against it?

The law is not on the side of the blinded driver. The AA’s Edmund King said: “Although some newer vehicle headlights are extremely bright, there isn’t much the law or MOT testers can do to change the brightness when the beam pattern is set correctly to MOT specifications.”

Optometrist Aishah Fazlanie believes that taking care of our own eye health is vital. She said: “Regular eye tests are key. Make sure your prescription is current; make sure your glasses and windshield are clean; and don’t drive with scratched lenses in your glasses.”

What about the yellow tinted lenses that are said to reduce glare? Fazlanie is not convinced. “Unless they are prescribed by an ophthalmologist, I would be wary,” she said. “You’d better get regular eye tests.”

Are brighter lights solely to blame? The problem of ‘blinding’ car headlights – and how to stay safe on the road

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