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Modern headlights dazzling motorcyclists 

Dazzling car headlights

Modern Xenon and LED headlights are dangerously dazzling motorcycle riders and car drivers, leading to a UN investigation into the road safety issue.

These brighter headlights are becoming more prevalent as standard equipment in modern cars and motorcycles.

2018 GL1800 Goldwing dazzling
LED headlights on a 2018 Goldwing

However, they have been found to be brighter and more dazzling than previous headlights.

A British RAC survey found that two-thirds of respondents sad there were dazzled by headlights even on low beam.

It found that two out of three said it takes up to five seconds for their sight to clear and 10% said they were dazzled for up to 10 seconds.

About 15% of the 2061 motorists polled said they nearly crashed after being dazzled by drivers using full-beam headlights.

Riders are particularly at risk from being dazzled because of their height above the road and their inability to quickly shield their eyes.

While a dazzled car driver only has to steer, a motorcyclist also has to maintain balance.

Aftermarket LED globes

Adaptive headlight dazzling
Aftermarket LED headlights

Long-time rider advocate Wayne Carruthers says the problem is made worse when motorists fit non ADR/CE/DOT LED globes to existing vehicles.

“They all have poor light delivery to the older headlight reflectors designed for incandescent globes,” he says.

“The problem for Governments around the world is that the advances in lighting technology, particularly LED are faster than the development of regulations and on line shopping means people have ready access to components which are not well designed

“The Australian Government needs to take a more active role in the UNECE WP29 working parties developing uniform regulations.”

Dazzling fog lightsFog lights dazzling

The other issue is with drivers dazzling riders by illegally using their fog lights when there is no fog.

However, Australian Motorcycle Council spokesman Guy Stanford police are more interested in speeding infringements than patrolling for illegal use of fog lights.

Fog lights can only be used when there is low visibility caused by fog or other hazardous weather conditions. Misuse of fog lights can cost a motorist a hefty fine and loss of points.

  1. What’s even worse than fog lights on a clear night or day is fog lights and headlights on together – again, not legal and very dazzling. Subaru fog lights are the worst (nothing against the brand; I like them and have owned a couple). I’ve even seen wallopers driving around with fog lights and headlights on together in clear conditions, so it appears even the enforcers of the law don’t know the law. Same old story – you can do anything you like, including driving around bends with half the vehicle on the wrong side of double lines, as long as you do it below the speed limit. Extremely lazy policing.

    1. Or that annoying single red fog light on the back, the number of times that has been left on!

  2. Part of the problem is vehicles with misaligned headlights or with lenses and reflectors designed for markets where vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road. The MOT (uk annual vehicle safety inspection) is supposed to check headlight aim and it’s pretty much a hand-waving exercise. If i actually want headlights in a vehicle aligning I have to stamp my feet. Worse, fill the car with luggage or passengers and the lights point skywards. How many drivers know how to use the little headlamp aim adjust on cars that don’t self level? I wish my bike had such easy adjustment for when I’ve got a pillion on, although maxing the rear preload helps in this respect.

    Dip beams should cut low ahead and towards the oncoming traffic but may still be high on the kerbside. It’s probably less of a problem in AUS, but here a large amount of cars have had minor accident damage fixed with a part form ebay that fits but came from mainland europe where they drive on the other side of the road to us.

    That said, as riders are emerging from winter hibernation here, there are a number of pricks riding around with high beam on constant which just dazzles everyone and and makes drivers hostile.

    1. Hi Rowland,
      Great to hear from one of our UK readers.
      I’m currently in the UK, staying with my daughter in Kent.
      Do you know the area? I’m interested in checking in with some local riders.

      1. Mark, I’m a UK expat. I don’t know Kent but in the next county Box Hill is one of the biggest biker / petrol head hangouts at Ryka’s Cafe, Old London Rd, Box Hill, Mickleham, Dorking RH5 6BY. Other than that a lot of bikers do runs on the weekend to typical touristy seaside towns e.g. Hastings in Kent.

        Cheers, Lee.

  3. Half the cars on the road have the headlights aimed wrong.
    It used to be part of the registration inspection but I’m sure they just plug in a computer to look for fault codes and unless the doors are falling off and bands are poking out the tread they just hand over the slip.

  4. The problem only gets worse when the plastics lenses get old enough to haze over, then the light scatters everywhere.
    The other problem is that all the tosspot drivers of cars with “privacy” glass need to have bright lights showing on other cars just to see them from the sides and the rear.
    The rise in factory dark tints seems to align with the rise in cars with daytime running lights.
    I don’t know why car drivers need so much privacy. Maybe if what they are doing needs so much privacy they should not be doing it in a car.

  5. Modern car design has a lot to answer for. Almost horizontal windscreens, headlights mounted on the sides and top of car wings instead of being mounted on the front of the car. These cause multiple problems with visibility. Rain refracts light upwards causing dazzle. It can be very hazardous for bikers. Because of this, many motorists use fog lights to supplement the poor quality lights, or else use 100+ watt bulbs. As a professional biker I find it really annoying to say the least!

  6. Fog Lights are an easy fix. When fog lights are turned on in any car, the headlights cut out. Fog lights are only useful when the main headlights are off, so if all cars were fitted with an automatic switch whereby the headlights switch off when fog lights are switched on, it would be fixed.
    I have struggled when riding in front of cars with their fog lights on at night during rainy weather. The glare from the wet road makes it extremely hard to see what’s behind you, and how far behind you a car actually is.

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