Why stylish lights might not be such a bright idea

bmw in dark car park with LED lights

Buying a new car usually means getting something better – or at least different – to what you had before. Taxi drivers might choose something bigger because they are doing longer journeys such as airport runs, while someone operating in a city centre might want something more economical and with low or zero emissions.

And for those looking for a change, car styles and designs have altered dramatically over the past 10 years, with lighter, more economical vehicles offering the all-important extra MPG . . . while the looks become more sleek and sophisticated.


One of the biggest changes has come in terms of lighting, with LED bulbs appearing almost everywhere to add to the style of a car, whether it is in the grille, the footwells, cupholders or even projecting the brand logo on the ground when you open the doors.

Gone are the days when it was simply headlights, brake lights and indicators which you could replace yourself. But brighter, long-lasting LEDs are not without their problems, the most serious of which is blinding other drivers. It is an issue that can have tragic consequences.

Figures show it contributes to an average 280 crashes a year – six of them being fatal. This has a devastating impact on the families of the victims, as well as everyone else involved. And the problem is much worse than those figures suggest.


Fuel cards provider Fleetmaxx Solutions discovered shocking statistics in a survey by The AA.

More than three-quarters (76%) of drivers said they had been blinded by oncoming headlights, and more than half (52%) “experienced the discomfort of dazzle from headlights behind them”.

A quarter (26%) have been blinded by brake lights from vehicles in front and almost a third (31%) had been dazzled by LED traffic lights – an issue likely to get worse with more EVs on the roads.

The RAC and the AA have called for the Department for Transport to investigate the problem.


Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for The AA, said: “Being dazzled by headlights is something most drivers experience, but it seems that many drivers are now overwhelmed with bright lights.”

The AA suggests that the problem has been made worse by the huge number of SUVs on our roads, which are higher than standard cars and oncoming drivers are looking straight into the bright beams.

More than half (56%) of the drivers surveyed told the AA there should be tighter regulations on LED headlights with 27% believing that manufacturers were putting styling ahead of safety.


And the issue is not just limited to new cars. Older vehicles that are retro-fitted with LEDs could pose an even bigger danger.

Cheap kits can easily be found online and are easy to install. But, like other vehicle components, headlights have been designed for a specific purpose and you cannot just replace a halogen headlight with an LED bulb. The entire headlight casing, which has been designed with automatic levelling to avoid dazzling, must be installed. This is obviously more expensive and needs to be done by an expert.

Cheap kits might seem like an easy option, but they are not road legal in the UK, and a vehicle will fail its MoT, making it unroadworthy and illegal to drive.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.