OPINION: ‘Is it a UFO? Is it the rapture? No, it’s Irish drivers with ultra-bright LED headlights’

I don’t make a habit of looking directly at the sun. 

We’ve all done it – probably out of curiosity after being told not to as a child, or accidentally on a particularly bright day – but it’s rarely a pleasant experience. Unless you enjoy temporary blindness and a burning sensation in your eyeballs. 

Lately, I’ve noticed the sun in my eyes a lot more. But it’s not during daylight hours, and it’s not the real sun however much it feels like it.

No, I’m talking about the ultra-bright LED car headlights plaguing Irish roads. 

As someone who passed the driving test just last year, I don’t know how prevalent this problem was in the years before I hit the road. But whether it’s a new phenomenon or not, it needs to be solved as soon as possible before someone ends up in an accident. 

Unfortunately, this may already be the case. 

According to An Garda Síochána, a total of 181 road deaths have been recorded this year, which amounts to approximately one fatality every two days in 2023.

As we’re still a couple of days away from the official end of the year, this number could increase. 

This year’s figure marks a huge increase on 2022 when there were 27 fewer road deaths (154 in total), with 41 fewer deaths in 2019 (140 total). 

I can’t say that insanely bright LEDs are the cause of this significant rise in fatalities, I don’t have evidence for that, but with more road safety awareness than ever I can’t help but wonder if there’s a correlation. 

Certainly, fewer Gardaí on the roads and intoxicated and speeding drivers are a big part of why the number of fatalities is so high. But do LEDs also play a role in this? 

I think they do. 

LEDs – or Light Emitting Diodes – have a lifespan and electrical efficiency which are several times greater than incandescent lamps and fluorescent lamps, with higher light quality. 

They are incredibly efficient, but they’re also too efficient; just because something can be very bright doesn’t mean it should. 

I’ve often found myself driving at night with two mini suns behind me and another two in front, and it’s a dangerous situation; especially when I have to move my rear view mirror to a completely different angle just so I’m not completely dazzled. 

Visibility becomes very poor very quickly, and this is where crashes can easily happen, particularly if the road is unfamiliar. 

I often travel long stretches on roads between the Midlands and the North of the country, and often in the dark during the autumn and winter months. 

Lately, and particularly over the last six months, every second car’s headlights are so bright I can’t tell if they’re full beams or not. My car is small and close to the ground, so when a higher car like a jeep passes me, their LED lights stare me straight in the face. 

But it’s not just the brightness level that’s a problem, it’s also the colour. 

The ice-white, almost blue tinge of LEDs is deeply uncomfortable to look at, and although my main beef is with how bright they are, a yellow tint would at least be easier to bear. 

I approach my Christmas lights much the same way. 

My family decided to put up icy white lights this year rather than warm white, and I could feel my eyes dilating every time I walked into the room. It wasn’t because there were too many on the tree – the number of tiny bulbs was fairly modest – but the cold, stark light is impossible to ignore. 

A hundred tiny LEDs are more tolerable than two real life ones, but it’s still far from my first choice. 

You may be thinking this is a “me” problem, and you’d be correct. The thing is, there are lots of people just like me out there who have the same reaction to these lights. In fact there are dozens of threads on Reddit Ireland discussing this very issue, but the problem is nothing is being done about it. 

According to a study conducted by the RAC, 65% of motorists have been dazzled by LED headlights, and they were found to be distracting, leading to potential near misses.

The choice shouldn’t be up to the consumer. There should be rules on maximum brightness levels and these should be checked and enforced at NCT centres and by patrolling Gardaí. 

We have rules on how dark a window can be… why not something similar for bright lights? 

Any time I’ve asked someone with bright LEDs why they like them, it’s almost always the same answer: 

“They improve my field of vision.” 

But just how much light do you need? How much of the road do you really need to see to be safe? UFOs have dimmer lights. 

I’ve driven near cars with beams so bright it’s like night becomes day, and it doesn’t make me feel safe; it feels more like the rapture! 

I’ve spoken to people who believe more light is better because they can react to hazards quicker. But this doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the lights themselves can cause a hazard for others, especially people with sensory issues, astigmatism, the elderly, pedestrians, and migraine sufferers. 

According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), LED lights can be used as headlights “once they are type approved, fitted to compatible vehicles and the light beam does not dazzle other road users”. 

But who is checking if the light beam dazzles other road users or not? 

Correct alignment can be checked at the NCT centre but, again, who decides what level of brightness is too bright… and what’s just right? 

I think until there are specific regulations on brightness levels in place, it’s the responsibility of the driver to ensure their car isn’t creating a hazard for other road users. 

After all, we wouldn’t tolerate someone driving with full beams on for long. How is this any different? 

Por Ovnis

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *