Fran Laub, a 77-year-old Vancouver resident, drives a 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis. She usually avoids nighttime driving, in part because of glare from the headlights of other vehicles.
“When I drive at night, those headlights hit me right in the eye because my car sits low,” she said. “It drives me insane, and it’s not just because I had glaucoma surgery.”
Headlights allow drivers to see where they are going at night and allow other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to see them. With increasing popularity of light emitting diode, or LED, headlights, some wonder if today’s headlights are too bright.
Josh Whitehead of Vancouver brought up headlights as part of The Columbian’s Clark Asks series, where readers suggest news stories and vote on which should be covered.
“Is having bright headlights legal?” he asked. “It shouldn’t be. I feel like I’m a deer who’s in a ‘Final Destination’ movie plot.”
Many readers share his concern. Whitehead’s question received 71 percent of votes, the second-highest margin of victory in the feature’s three-year history.
There’s no shortage of Americans who are worked up about headlights. About 13,700 people have signed an online petition to “Ban blinding headlights and save lives!”
Mark Baker of softlights.org sent The Columbian an email alleging “there is clearly a conspiracy happening by the auto industry and those who supposedly regulate industry regarding these eye-damaging LED headlights.”
Experts who have spent years studying headlights and traffic safety offer a different perspective.
“Lights are not brighter,” said Michael Flannagan, a research associate professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Mich. “By and large, the same laws have been in place for decades.”
“The standard for the intensity of the headlight hasn’t changed,” said David Aylor, manager of active safety testing for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Ruckersville, Va. “That has been around since the ’70s.”