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Serious injury lawyer explores dangers of dazzling headlights after government announces it will launch review

Driving at night presents a unique set of challenges. Reduced visibility, potential fatigue, and the absence of natural light make night-time driving riskier than daytime travel. 

The government has now announced it intends to commission independent research shortly into the issue in an attempt to reduce the risk of road traffic collisions.

The glaring problem

Shockingly, 40% of all collisions on UK roads occur during the dark hours, reports Compare The Market.

One of the dangers of driving at night that seems to be becoming increasingly prominent is dazzling headlights. Newer cars seem to have brighter headlights, and it's believed this is due to the use of LED rather than traditional halogen bulbs. These are designed to illuminate the road in order to help drivers to see better at night, but this can also be to the detriment of other road users. 

Excessively bright headlights can temporarily blind other drivers, impairing their ability to see the road clearly, and this is particularly pronounced the darker the evening is, or in adverse weather conditions. This draws a driver’s attention away from the road, and whilst our eyes struggle to adjust, it can then become challenging to focus on driving safely. This leads to an increased risk of collisions.

Aiming matters

It appears that the problem is not solely the brightness of the headlights, but it is also about where the headlights are aimed: 

  • Backseat passengers: Passengers in the back seat can inadvertently alter the headlight angle, affecting oncoming drivers.
  • Luggage load: Heavy luggage in the boot can tilt the car’s front end, misaligning the headlights.
  • SUVs and high vehicles: Taller vehicles, like SUVs, cast headlights directly into the eyes of drivers in smaller cars.

Some vehicles are equipped with headlamp levelling systems, which automatically adjust the aim to prevent dazzling. However, not all cars have this feature.

Age amplifies the issue 

Interestingly, an optician Essilor has reported that as many as 17 million drivers in Britain struggle to see at night, but it's particularly difficult for older drivers. Their studies showed that it can take as long as nine seconds for drivers aged 65 or older to recover after being dazzled by bright headlights. It only takes a split second for a collision to happen. 

To protect against this, the optician recommends an anti-glare or anti-reflective coating that can be applied to glasses lens solution. 

Taking action

This issue came to the forefront of my own mind recently when I stumbled across a public petition online urging the government to review headlight brightness for safety. More than 13,000 concerned citizens have now signed the petition.

Since I first viewed the petition, the Department for Transport has responded. It raised the issue at the United Nations international expert group on vehicle lighting. Proposals to amend headlamp aiming rules were agreed in April 2023, with transitional provisions in place to allow vehicle manufacturers to redesign their products and adapt the manufacturing process. The changes include mandatory automatic headlight levelling. Tighter tolerances are expected to come into effect in September 2027, over three years away. 

Although this is encouraging, it's concerning to think that the increased risk will continue during this time. It also remains to be decided whether the problem is solely headlight aiming, as the government seem to believe, or also the type of bulbs used. It's understood however that the Department for Transport intend to conduct independent research to identify any further required changes. 

Seeking legal support following a road traffic collision

Day to day, I work as a serious injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Southampton office. My work involves running claims for clients who have sadly been seriously injured in road traffic collisions with many different causes and contributing factors, which can include dazzling headlights. 

As we navigate the dark roads, let’s advocate for safer driving conditions. The recent petition and government review are steps in the right direction, but continued awareness and action are essential. Responsible use of headlights benefits everyone on the road.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families following road collisions at our dedicated road accident claims section.

For more on the petition, visit Review the brightness of car headlights for safety - Petitions (