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Wednesday, 16 January 2019 19:20

Brighter Headlights Cause Problems: Here's How It Got That Way

Written by Frank Esposito, The Journal News
Some motorists are bothered by headlight glare from other vehicles. Some motorists are bothered by headlight glare from other vehicles. Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News


On a crisp December evening, your car rolls along the Taconic State Parkway, headed home.


Hills rise and fall as a line of cars zips along the tree-lined roadway. But faces wince and heads turn away when a car crests the top of the opposite hill, its headlights dazzling.


Increasingly, this is becoming a regular reaction by motorists from coast to coast, particularly older drivers, as they navigate dark roads.


Leaps in lighting technology combined with confusing regulations and antiquated laws have coalesced into an everyday evening frustration, one that has had more than one driver asking themselves behind the wheel, "Why does that guy have his brights on?"


Think again.


Blinded by the Lights


In New York---and particularly on the dark roads of the Hudson Valley---drivers are facing an onslaught of powerful headlight glare. From dark roads such as the Taconic State Parkway, to brighter interstates, like I-87, this new generation of lights can produce similar glaring effects during rush hour traffic in the dark.


Jessica Kesselman is one of those drivers struggling on nighttime drives with exceedingly bright headlights.


"I have a terrible time with them on the Palisades Parkway," Kesselman said.


Kesselman talked about experiencing what experts call discomfort glare, a feeling of annoyance caused by high luminance in their field of view.


Whether drivers complain about the color or intensity, many blame themselves. While age plays a part, that's only a piece of the puzzle.


Longtime Piermont resident Ed Beach, who now lives in Tennessee, struggles in his new state with headlight brightness.


"At 78, I've given up driving at night totally," said the U.S. Air Force veteran. "Any oncoming light completely blinds me."


How the Lights Powered Up


Automotive lighting for many years remained the same then, like a flash of technological lighting, lit up the night.


Essentially the issue arose from the collision of three separate issues: Antiquated regulations, rapidly advancing technology and an aging population, all of which converged in the automotive lighting world.


Professor Lana Trick---a distracted driving expert from University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada--- explained how an aging population in places such as the U.S., Canada and Europe causes part of the situation drivers face at night.

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