Headlight fight hots up in the war on the bobby dazzlers

A growing campaign aims to tackle the 'dangerous' issue of super-bright car headlights dazzling other road users.

Dubbed the 'Lightmare' campaign, it has received the backing of the Drivers Instructors Association among other prominent motoring groups.

The movement – pioneered by night-time London cabbie Ken Perham – wants to tackle 'high intensity discharge' headlights 'blind' on-coming road users.
'These lights are up to three times brighter than a standard halogen headlight and the HID system causes severe distraction to a driver approaching them,' explained Perham.

The intensity of these lights can hide less conspicuous objects, such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, putting these vulnerable groups in danger. This situation must be considered as an urgent matter to be addressed by the government.'

Perham says these headlights use technology that responds to undulations in the road – but as this isn't checked as part of the annual MOT, faulty systems can cause serious problems.

Perham has joined forces with Drivers Against Daylight Running Lights (DaDRL) to add extra weight to his battle. The DaDRL is concerned rules that come into force this month making daytime running lights mandatory for all European-built cars could result in cyclists and motorcyclists becoming more vulnerable.

The campaign is gathering support too. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, told Autoblog: 'Figures show drivers being dazzled by headlights were recorded as a contributory factor in 365 road accidents in 2009, three of which were fatal.

'There will not be a driver out there who at some stage has not been blinded by over-bright or incorrectly adjusted headlights and, as technology changes, ministers need to take account of evidence from elsewhere to assess whether the dangers are increasing.'

This view was backed by Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

He told us: 'We are not convinced daytime running lights are genuinely needed in this country. It is not clear how many casualties would be saved and there is concern that they would not be good for motorcyclist safety.

'On the issue of headlights, it is true that you do get dazzled sometimes by oncoming headlights, and there is a case for considering how best to prevent that including changing the MOT test.'

And Safe Speed's Claire Armstrong added: 'When overtaking, daylight running lights (including HID) reduce the ability to judge distances, which can be distracting and create confusion for all motorists.

'Also, it's worth noting that when people age, their eyes react less quickly to light. When someone is temporarily blinded by car headlights the time taken to recover increases, thus rendering them unable to see the road ahead, and the greater the chance of a crash.'

The Institute of Advanced Motorists said it was up to drivers to use their lights in a way which doesn't dazzle other users and added many cars have the ability for motorists to adjust them from the dashboard.

While The AA's head of road safety Andrew Howard said he understood the benefits of daytime running lights were more obvious in other parts of Europe, but added the current designs would not 'bring problems'.

'In fact they may bring advantages in helping road users distinguish moving cars from a background of parked vehicles,' he added.

It appears the argument for and against these lights is only set to grow as more and more cars appear on our roads sporting them. But what do you think? Let us know your thoughts by posting your comments below.

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