UK government launches review into headlight glare after drivers’ complaints

Campaigners have hailed the government’s announcement of independent research into headlight glare, which comes as a survey suggests many drivers believe they have become too bright and risk causing accidents.

The RAC, which has been highlighting the problem in recent years, said it was a key concern among motorists and welcomed the move as an opportunity to fix it.

“The fact the government has listened to drivers’ concerns and heeded our calls to examine the complex issue of headlight glare in more detail marks a real turning point,” said the RAC’s road safety spokesperson, Rod Dennis.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the independent research would help “better understand the root causes of driver glare and identify any further appropriate mitigations”. Its commission came in response to a petition with more than 10,000 signatures that urged ministers to launch a review.

A recent survey for the RAC suggested more than four out of five drivers affected by headlight glare believed the problem was getting worse. The poll of 2,000 UK drivers also indicated 89% thought some car headlights were too bright.

About two-thirds of those affected by headlight glare said being dazzled forced them to slow down considerably, while a broadly similar proportion believed some headlights were so bright they risked causing accidents.

The RAC believes headlights appear brighter on modern cars because the use of LED, rather than traditional halogen bulbs, creates a more intense and focused beam. They improve a driver’s view but can be to the detriment of other road users. Other potential factors include badly aligned headlights and the increase in the number of cars that sit higher on the road, such as SUVs.

In its response to the petition, the DfT also said international rules requiring new cars to have mandatory automatic headlight levelling based on the weight being carried were agreed by the UN in April last year and would come into force in September 2027.

Government figures show that, since 2013, there have been an average of 280 collisions on Britain’s roads every year where dazzling headlights were a contributory factor. Of these, six a year involved someone losing their life.

But Dennis said there were “known shortcomings concerning the official road casualty data not accurately capturing the true number of incidents associated with headlight glare”.

The Labour peer Dianne Hayter, who has also urged the government to take action over headlights, said: “This is a victory for all those drivers affected by glare who’ve complained to their MP, signed the parliamentary petition, or indeed sought help from an optometrist only to discover the problem was with headlights, and not their eyes.”

The survey of 2,000 UK drivers was carried out by the research company Online95 in December 2023.

The Guardian