RAC calls for study into headlight glare

A survey of 2000 UK motorists identified that 89% felt at least some car headlights on the road are too bright, with eight in 10 feeling the issue is getting worse

A long exposure of car headlights on a large multi-lane road at night, which leaves long trails of white lights in one direction, and red in the other

The RAC has highlighted the issue of glare from car headlights following survey results which found that eight in 10 drivers feel the problem is getting worse.

Following the research, the RAC has called on the Government to commission an independent study on the issue of headlight glare.

The RAC survey of 2000 UK drivers found that nine in 10 (89%) think ‘at least some’ car headlights on the road are too bright, with three in 10 believing that ‘most’ are.

Of the drivers who expressed concerns on the issue, 91% said they are dazzled when driving, whilst three-quarters said this happens regularly.

The research found that 67% of survey respondents who experience glare find they need to slow down “considerably” until they are able to see clearly again.

A similar proportion, 64%, expressed concerns that some headlights are so bright that they risk causing accidents – with 5% of these drivers reporting that they have nearly been involved in collisions themselves.

Almost 7% of respondents said they found headlight glare so bad that they avoided driving at night – a figure that rose to 14% in drivers aged 65 and over.

The RAC shared that it has been surveying drivers on dazzling headlights since 2018, but that the new findings show more drivers are experiencing the issue.

The RAC will be meeting with the Government later this month to discuss its recent report Modern vehicle headlights dazzle drivers and may compromise road safety.

Rod Dennis, an RAC spokesperson, commented: “Our figures suggest drivers are more concerned than ever about headlight glare, with a huge proportion wanting to see something done about it.”

The RAC would like the Government to commission an independent study to understand what is causing an increase in reports of dazzling and what can be done to keep drivers safe.

“With spring still a long way off, there’s a good chance many people will do most of their driving in darkness over the next few months and, according to our research, that means an awful lot of drivers will experience the discomfort and even danger that comes from being dazzled by headlights,” Dennis said.

The RAC has raised the issue of headlight glare with the Department for Transport, and has been working with Baroness Hayter, a member of the House of Lords, to make driver concerns known among Government officials.

Commenting on the findings of the RAC, Bayoness Hayter of Kentish Town commented: “Government should take action now to be on the side of road safety and ensure everyone keeps to the Highway Code, which states drivers ‘must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle other road users.’”

Bright lights and dazzle

The RAC surveyed drivers on what they felt the reasons behind headlight glare were, with 87% suspecting that some lights just appear brighter. The RAC suggested this could be as a result of the increasing prevalence of LED headlights which provide a more intense, focused beam of light than conventional halogen bulbs.

Meanwhile, 44% thought dazzle could be caused by badly aligned headlights.

Six in 10 drivers of conventional cars thought headlight dazzle could be caused by vehicles that sit higher on the road, while 35% of those in higher vehicles concurred.

The RAC outlined government collision statistics which show that, since 2013, there has been an average of 280 collisions a year where dazzling headlights were a contributory factor – of these, six a year involved a loss of life. The actual number could be higher, the RAC argued, if an investigation is unable to determine whether a collision was directly or indirectly caused by headlight glare.

RAC spokesperson, Rod Dennis, cautioned that while brighter lights provide a clearer view of the road, “that appears to come at a cost for those on the receiving end of excessively bright lights.”

“The numbers of reported road casualties where headlight glare was listed as a contributing factor might be small when compared to something like speeding, but that only tells part of the story,” Dennis commented. “Is it right we have such a high proportion of drivers who feel unsafe when they’re driving at night, with some having even given up night-time trips altogether?”

Mike Bowen, director of knowledge and research at the College of Optometrists, noted that the results from the RAC research are helpful to inform understanding of how changes to vehicle headlight technologies may affect the functional vision of drivers, and their visual comfort when driving at night.

Tracking dazzle

An RAC survey of 2000 UK motorists found:

9 in 10

motorists think at least some headlights on cars are too bright


believe some headlights are so bright they risk causing accidents


find headlight glare is so bad, they avoid driving at night


think that some headlights appear brighter.

OT  asks...

Are your patients concerned about glare or dazzle caused by headlights when driving?
  • Yes, many of my patients have raised concerns about headlight glare or dazzle

    52 94%
  • Some of my patients have raised concerns about headlight glare or dazzle

    2 3%
  • My patients have rarely expressed concerns about headlight glare or dazzle

    1 1%
  • None of my patients have raised concerns about headlight glare or dazzle

    0 0%

Elsewhere in driving and vision related news, the Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland have launched a new campaign encouraging drivers aged 60 and over to maintain regular eye examinations to continue driving safely. Read more here.