Headlight glare – more drivers being dazzled by bright headlights than a year ago, survey finds

By Lewis on 8th November 2019 - View Comments

A lot of things can get on people’s nerves about driving – we’ve covered a recent top 10 of annoying habits before  – but according to new research from the RAC, dazzling headlights are  especially irritating.

91% of drivers surveyed said that ‘some’ or ‘most’ car headlights are too bright, with over half (54%) saying they get dazzled by them more now than they did a year ago.

Encountered most often when driving at night, headlight dazzle can blind oncoming traffic, making it a potential danger. 70% of drivers surveyed agreed with this, believing that some headlights were so bright that they put drivers at risk of an accident. Indeed, government data shows that dazzling headlights are a possible factor in 300 collisions every year.

However, those surveyed were less clear about the causes of headlight dazzle. Just over half (51%) blamed vehicles that sit higher on the road, like increasingly popular SUVs, but in contrast 41% said that the problem wasn’t caused by any particular vehicle.

Modern technology was also in the firing line, with 55% of respondents believing that LED and xenon headlights (emitting a blue light that’s around 3 times brighter than normal) are guilty of the increased dazzle. Despite this, 51% of drivers admitted they could not tell the difference between the two types of lights in the first place. RAC spokesman Rod Dennis, thinks this shows people are misinformed about headlight dazzle, saying that “It’s not as straightforward as saying one lightbulb causes more of a dazzling effect than another – there are a range of reasons why a driver might be dazzled.”

Some of these reasons might even be the driver’s fault. The survey found that 47% of drivers either never adjust their headlights to account for carrying different loads, or don’t adjust them regularly enough – which can cause others on the road to be inadvertently dazzled.

Misaligned headlights can also be a problem, with a quarter (26%) of drivers having had problems with one before. Of these, 9% have tried to sort the problem out themselves or even worse, ignored it all together. Headlight aim is checked as part of your car’s MOT, and the requirements on garages to conduct this part of the test thoroughly were strengthened in 2016.

Bright headlights aren’t illegal – as the RAC points out, all of them have to meet international standards – but the regulation hasn’t properly been updated since the 1960’s, and so doesn’t take specific account of newer technologies like xenon and LED. 84% of drivers want to see the regulation updated for this reason, but what can we do ourselves to either lessen the impact of headlight glare or stop our cars from dazzling other motorists?

Dealing with headlight glare

Talk to your optician –if you wear glasses, a coating can be added that can make it easier to see when you are faced with car headlights. A quarter (25%) of respondents to the RAC survey wear such glasses.

Adjust your rear-view mirror more often – Unless your car has a self-dimming rear-view mirror, you can reduce glare from vehicles behind you by doing this – more than half (56%) of drivers who responded to the survey say they do this

Get an auto-dimming rear view mirror– an auto-dimming mirror can be a great bonus when buying your next car. Alongside other additions like darkened glass (sometimes known as “sunset glass”), it can go a long way in reducing the amount of light that eventually reaches you.

Tips to stop your car causing headlight glare for others

Does your car automatically level its headlights?Check to see if your car automatically levels its headlights based on the load you’re  carrying –  most don’t

Remember to manually adjust your headlights  depending on the load you are carrying and according to the car’s manual. A single person driving with an empty boot needs a different setting compared to a single person with a boot-load of luggage, or all five seats occupied and a fully-loaded boot.

What’s the angle of your headlights?Next time your car goes for its MOT, ask to have the angle of your headlights checked so you can make sure the beam is being directed where you want it to go.


Do you find yourself getting dazzled by headlights regularly? Does the current regulation go far enough? Let us know in the comments below!

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