Ask Laz: It’s not your imagination: Headlights are getting brighter

Blinded by the light
State and federal regulations say vehicle headlights can’t blind other drivers. But they’re still getting brighter.
(Los Angeles Times)

Chuck says he’s often blinded by other people’s headlights when he’s driving -- “even when they’re supposedly on low beams.”

He asks: Isn’t there a limit on how bright headlights can be?

I’m with you, Chuck. I’ve encountered headlights on oncoming cars that, even on low, were bright enough to scorch my retinas.

Section 24255 of the California Vehicle Code isn’t very helpful. It says:


“A vehicle may be equipped with a system to supplement the driver’s visibility of the roadway to the front or rear of the vehicle during darkness. This system may incorporate an illuminating device that emits radiation predominantly in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum and a display monitor to provide an image visible to the driver of the vehicle. The system, or any portion of it, shall not obstruct the vision of the driver, and shall not emit any glaring light visible in any direction or to any person.”

“Glaring light,” I assume, is in the eye of the beholder.

Section 24410 of the code says only that “the intensity shall be sufficient to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 200 feet.”

Standard 108 of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations says vehicle headlights must be capable of reducing “traffic crashes and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes, by providing adequate illumination of the roadway, and by enhancing the conspicuity of motor vehicles on the public roads so that their presence is perceived and their signals understood.”


Here’s the thing, though: An increasing number of new vehicles are being equipped with so-called High Intensity Discharge lights, which give the impression of being bright white with a slightly bluish tinge. They are indeed brighter than other lights -- and they’re legal.

So to anyone who’s been wondering, it’s not your imagination. Headlights are indeed getting brighter. And maybe that’s why, like the song says, you’ll want to wear your sunglasses at night.

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