Road Safety News

‘Blinding lights’ to blame for ‘soaring crash rate’ - Lightmare

Wednesday 14th October 2015

Lobbying group Lightmare is urging transport minister Patrick McLoughlin to ‘act now’ after stating its belief that ‘blinding’ Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are to blame for ‘soaring crash rates’.

Lightmare points to DfT casualty stats for 2014 and argues that ‘the steady year-on-year decline in casualties has been halted and is now increasing in proportion to the use of blinding light’.

In an open letter to Mr McLoughlin, Lightmare’s Roy Milnes refers to “expert medical opinion proving that blinding lights are the cause”.

Lightmare argues that the rise in road casualties in the UK since 2010 can be directly linked to an EU mandate from February 2011 stating that all cars should have DRLs.

It says that after the 2011 mandate, many vehicle manufacturers started introducing BiXenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights which it claims ‘can cause temporary blindness’, and as a result accidents have increased because of a ‘reduced perception of hazards caused by light distraction’.

While acknowledging they can distract drivers, Lightmare dismisses the notion that in-car gadgets are to blame for the rise in collisions, stating that they ‘did not suddenly appear in 2010’.

Lightmare has been campaigning since 1999 and claims that the current VW emissions scandal is ‘nothing compared to what the automakers have deliberately inflicted upon us with blinding headlights and daytime lights’.

It claims that the EU's road safety advisors only did laboratory tests and did not consult with ophthalmologists about the detrimental effect of BiXenon HID headlights on the eye.

It suggests the EU initially proposed an intensity of 400 candelas (cd) for DRL but at the ‘behest of automakers’ they finally mandated blinding 1200cd DRL and 2500cd headlights.

Lightmare accepts that 1200cd DRL may be needed in pure sunlight but says at all other times they ‘blind you’, suggesting it is a ‘gimmick’ to give automakers something to market as ‘safety sells’.

Photo credit: © Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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Lamps today are too bright. When the law that defined the maximum allowed headlamp brightness was created, it was flawed, because it specified power instead of luminous intensity. The limit that was set was determined by the intensity of a 55 watt lamp of the day, and it was recognised that it was the maximum tolerable brightness without causing temporary brightness to oncoming traffic. We now need to fix the law, and set the maximum intensity to that of a 55 watt lamp in the 1930s, and specify it using the proper units weighted to account for the sensitivity of the eye. It's not rocket science.

Agree (32) | Disagree (0)

I have spent the last two and a half years travelling between the Scottish borders and Yorkshire where I used to live. I did this so I could visit my mother, who for all this time was very ill. I did this knowing that I would dread the coming winter months. I am not an advanced driver, I would say I'm an ok driver. I drive with the knowledge that if there is something wrong with my car that could cause other road users or myself to drive dangerously, then my car should not be on the road. During the dark winter months many road users whose cars are fitted with these new headlights are doing just that. It's not their fault but the fault of the manufactures who have chosen to fit the lights in their cars. The headlights are DANGEROUSLY bright. They look like they are on full beam, they look like they are flashing when they go over the slightest bump and when they are coming towards you, weather single track or motorway they cause you to be blinded for seconds. Dangerous seconds. For many minutes afterwards your vision is affected. You can't see the road ahead, or the white line in the middle of the road, anything. You could kill someone, my sister, your own sister, brother Mother , Son, Farther. Is it worth it just to see a little farther than the other guy.... IS IT ...Really.
Colin Hammond Scotland

Agree (50) | Disagree (0)

You can argue all you like that led, hid and xenon headlights do not dazzle and blind people but facts are still facts. When you wield these peevish, blinding lights in people's faces do not be surprised with your eventual head on collision. Also in ten years time don't be surprised when your eyesight starts to fail because of them. Just like asbestos and tens of things before you were promised were safe... it will all become so clear to you in time.
Dee Bee South yorkshire

Agree (33) | Disagree (2)

All I know is that when I drive home, which is along a quiet country road, on the nights I am fortunate to only meet cars with standard headlights I have no issues, if I am unfortunate and meet cars with extra bright headlights I find myself having to slam on my brakes as I am blinded and cannot see where I am going. I think we all have a right to be able to drive safely and see where we are going and I have no problem seeing with normal headlights the only time I can't see is due to other people's super bright lights.
Marj Scotland

Agree (47) | Disagree (2)

“expert medical opinion proving that blinding lights are the cause”.

Ok, how about expert road safety opinion. Traffic cops are not qualified to offer medical advice, no reason for the reverse to be acceptable.

Badly seated bulbs, inefficient dampers, poor road surface, just three obvious potential causes of "apparent flashing". Far more worrying is DRL accompanied by modern instrument clusters leaving so many people to think their lights are already one whilst showing no light to the rear at all.
Steve, Watford

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

I need to comment, it has been killing me. I know that it's just a library picture but it says in many words look at me driving close. We can see that its dark and on unlit country roads so why do the two following cars drive right up to the rear of the lead car? It should be that the two following on cars should much much further away from the lead car. It isn't and should the lead car be involved in an incident and comes to a Sudden stop both the other drivers would be in serious danger of losing their lives.

They haven't a clue on what Safe Distance is at all.
Bob craven Lancs....Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (23) | Disagree (0)

I think G. McArthur has hit the nail fully on the head.

Recently a seven year old innocently told me that her mummy always puts her mobile phone on loud speaker and keeps it between her legs whilst driving “so the Police can’t see”.
I wonder what kind of driver that seven year old will grow up to be like.

One problem with DLRLs, is that many drivers think that’s all they need when weather conditions turn nasty. They however fail to appreciate that DLRLs are only on the front of their car. They do not make the back of the car any easier to see!
Martin, Suffolk

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

I don't wish to be dismissive of Lightmare, but they refer to DRLs as a cause when I'm sure that DRLs paricularly for pedestrians are a step forward in terms of visibility. They are not too bright to mask cars without them. Night time is different with many drivers on sidelights being masked by drivers with 'normal' and uprated headlights. The test that should be carried out is with older drivers to see if the new headlight types increase the 'flare' that they suffer at night.
Olly Lancs

Agree (14) | Disagree (16)

Interesting comments provided by concerned motorists! I am one of the ever decreasing few who attend road traffic crashes and since 2011, I can say that neither DRLs or HIDs have been an issue in any of the incidents that I have investigated. Drivers have an issue with the usage of the lights, i.e. flashing to allow another driver priority and the use of fog lamps with the first whipser of light fog, without the ability to turn them off for the next few days. So maybe the fault lays elsewhere?

The comment about in car technology is interesting, as the use of social media and other aspects of the mobile world that we operate in HAS increased since 2011. I'm sure that recent research shows this.

In most minor crashes, without the admission of the use of the telephone etc, we are unlikely to examine the device due to cost so this will obviously affect the reporting figures. Crash figures released by both local and national government are a direct lift from the statistics recorded by police. If it doesn't get reported/recorded for one reason or another, then the system falls down.
G. McArthur. Roads Policing, Sussex

Agree (21) | Disagree (8)

This problem began when the perfectly sensible rules about maximum Wattage of front and rear lamps were overtaken by modern efficient bulbs producing much more light for given input power.

I am not particularly troubled by DTRL which are usually relatively low power, to be seen by rather than to see with. But as I have said here more than once, the intensity, size and shape of modern rear and fog lights is now beyond a joke, particularly at night and/or in the wet. Something must be done about it!
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (29) | Disagree (9)

Road humps are another cause of blinding /flashing lights. Probably not a cause of accidents because generally low speed.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

Agree (17) | Disagree (4)

I'm not going to hold my breath Dave and don't pursue it on my account. I'm not convinced that this is an issue. On balance I think DRL probably do more good than harm.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (24)

I would like to join with Hugh Jones in asking for the highest quality of evidence. And we must distinguish between DRLs (LEDs on all the time) and Xenon HLs (very bright dipped lights at night).
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (12) | Disagree (6)

I have no problems with the new vehicles with fitted day lights as they are usually in a string of LEDs and don't conflict with the use of any other lighting. They are what they are. What I don't like in the new more powerful headlights is that they appear to have an upper cut off point, so they look bright and then not so bright, then bright. My friend has such a vehicle and when driving in front of him every bounce in the road is seen as if he is in fact flashing his headlights and that can be dangerous. He has complained recently of other drivers cutting across him coming the other way or driving out of side streets and I believe, as he does now, that it's the blinking effect his lights have on others, they see it as a come on.

Other drivers are now putting on their combined fog and spot lights and they are facing forwards and in parallel with the road surface and not pointed down as are dipped lights so they dazzle oncoming vehicles. Add to this the ability of dipped headlights to be lowered or raised and we end up with raised dipped lights, mainly to be used in country roads and then kept high on urban streets, to the annoyance and danger of other road users.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (29) | Disagree (1)

Following Tanya's information, I would suggest that 'temporarily blinded' might be as a result of headlamp 'flashing' especially at night and which is more blinding, apart from being unnecessary. If one must 'flash', flicking the dipped beam off momentarily achieves the same purpose and doesn't blind. Vehicles parked facing oncoming traffic with headlights on is also blinding - both may be more worthy of a campaign than DRL.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (3)

This press release is a particularly good example of how linear cause and effect has become the predominant model to use in explaining any road safety problem. The reason for this is because the model itself is very simple and therefore can be easily understood by a great many people. In this model, cause directly precedes effect and provides a clear beginning and a clear ending so that any effect can can easily be traced back to one cause. It's all wonderfully simple yet in complex socio-technical systems such as road transport it's also wonderfully wrong.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (13) | Disagree (10)

Thanks for providing the link, Nick, although their report doesn't seem to be able to provide a clear link between DLR and the increase in collisions we've experienced in recent years.

I have just checked MAST Professional (which contains contributory factor data for police-attended collisions) and can say there has been no change in the proportion of 'dazzling headlight' collisions since 2006. In every year since 2006 (apart from 2010), collisions involving the contributory factor 705 Dazzling Headlights represented 0.3% of all police-attended injury collisions (it was 0.2% in 2010).

Of course we know that contributory factors are subjective and not the result of extensive investigation but I would have expected to see some increase in the use of this factor if drivers had felt that they were 'temporarily blinded' just before their crash.
Tanya Fosdick, Road Safety Analysis

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

In our first draft of this story we omitted to give links to the Lightmare website where there is much more information about this issue - we have now rectified this.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Equally, perhaps there have been many collisions which didn't happen because so equipped vehicles were noticed by other road users? Amazing what you can 'prove' with statistics.
As Derek intimated, Lightmare should produce the accident reports which demonstrate unequivocally that the primary 'cause' was these lights.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (10)

I have complete empathy with the call for elimination of HID lights in favour of something less blinding, and find daytime running lights unecessary, but would like to see the correlation between cause and effect in the DfT's figures.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (31) | Disagree (1)