By the time this Secretary’s Scribbles gets published in this February 2024 Newsletter, nights will be coming noticeably lighter but it will be some weeks yet before you can dispense with your headlights for journeys to and from work. I wonder if this year you have found other cars’ headlights more dazzling than in the past? If you have thought that your eyes are not adapting as well as they did when you were younger, think again.
A recent article in The Daily Telegraph was about the proliferation of excessively bright headlights. Nine out of ten respondents to a recent RAC survey said that headlights are too bright and about three quarters said they were regularly dazzled. There are several reasons for this. Firstly headlights have been getting brighter for decades. Who remembers the flickering acetylene lamps of early automobiles? Then came halogen lights. These produce 700-2,000 lumen of light.
On the other hand Light Emitting Diode (LED) headlights, commonly used today, emit a very bright white light according to carwow.co.uk. They produce about 15,000 lumen and have the following pros and cons:
- Lower power usage.
- Very bright beam.
- Offers advanced headlight control (see cons).
- Long lifespan – up to 10 times as long as halogen lights.
- Can dazzle drivers – however some designs, often referred to as matrix technology – can switch off individual LEDs to avoid blinding oncoming drivers.
- Expensive to replace – on a budget car that is 15 years old, a blown set of LED headlights may write-off the entire vehicle.
Laser headlights are now beginning to appear on some of the most prestigious and expensive cars. They are made up of tiny lasers which are fired at a small amount of phosphorus mounted within the unit. Carbuyer.co.uk says that this creates a vibrant while light which is reflected by internal mirrors and projected onto the road ahead. These mirrors can be ‘tuned’ to account for oncoming cars like the matrix LED headlights. They produce about 20,000 lumen.
The second factor that causes dazzling is the height of the headlight. In the 1990s all cars were mostly the same size. But because of the growth of SUVs different cars have headlights at different heights and higher ones may dazzle drivers of lower vehicles.
Thirdly, most drivers don’t know how to adjust the alignment of headlights to prevent them blinding oncoming motorists.
And fourthly, automatic headlight dimming systems do not apparently work as they should. They routinely ignore oncoming vehicles and have no way to detect pedestrians or poorly lit cyclists.
The Daily Telegraph writer believes that changes in headlight design could happen by 2027 but it seems a long way off when there are an average of six fatal collisions per year where bright or dazzling lights are a contributory factor.
I usually show my first draft of Secretary’s Scribbles of my wife, Katherine, and get her thoughts. Reading it this month reminded her of the policeman in Stockport, Mr Wrench, who taught her the principles of advanced driving. He advised not looking directly at cars coming towards you with headlights on. Instead he said you should concentrate on the nearside verge. So, until automatic dimming systems are foolproof it looks as though we will have to rely on tried and trusted ways of preventing ourselves from being dazzled!