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Are Bright Headlights Safer?

November 15, 2016

Headlight brightness is a big issue in Alaska. With more hours of darkness in the winter than any other state in the United States, dangerous driving situations tend to crop up. Since many Alaskan highways are unlit, some residents are trying to light up the darker parts of their trips by adding high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlamps to their cars.

For the past 10 years or so, drivers have installed HIDs between the hood and engine compartments of their car to produce broad and wide light beams of a brighter, whiter color. They do this because HID bulbs are up to two or three times brighter than standard halogen bulbs, which are more yellow in color.

Current Law

The current law regarding headlight brightness is vague and difficult to enforce. Citations for headlight brightness violations often don’t hold up in court, which discourages police officers from issuing them. Legislators could move to revise the law, but in that case, local and state police would need new technology and tools in order to enforce it. This could be a costly task to accomplish.

Whether you love or hate bright HID lights tends to depend on whether you’re driving the vehicle with the bright headlights or driving toward it.

Supporters Say:

Installing extra-bright headlights increases and improves a driver’s ability to see road shoulders, wildlife, pedestrians, road signs, and traffic signals. By improving one’s vision at night, these lights can, in theory, prevent car accidents.

Opponents Say:

Driving toward a vehicle with extra-bright headlights can be dangerous. The blue tint to the HID can cause vision sensitivity, and the brightness of the headlights can cause oncoming drivers to reflexively turn away or close their eyes. Some drivers even pull off the road to avoid the bright headlights.

Even though regulations for headlight brightness and installation exist in Alaska law, opponents argue they were made for halogen bulbs and, therefore, don’t necessarily apply to HIDs.

Proper Installation

Poorly-installed after-market lights cause the most problems for other drivers. Headlights must emit white light and must be installed no more than four-and-a-half feet above the ground, as required by Alaska administrative code.

The tilt, or angle, of the light is also very important. If the HID light is tilted incorrectly, it can have dangerous effects, including intense and blinding glares, for other drivers in oncoming vehicles.

If you do want to install extra headlights in your vehicle, make sure to have a qualified technician perform the installation. This ensures the maximum visibility for you while reducing the negative effects on other drivers.

Headlight Glare

No matter the type of light, glare is unavoidable. Whether the light is coming from streetlights or oncoming traffic headlights, their purpose is to help drivers see and improve their ability to judge distances. It requires a difficult but very important balance to achieve an acceptable amount of visibility with the least amount of glare.

It is unclear the number of accidents caused by the glare from HID headlights. In cases where glare is reported as the cause of an accident, the report often doesn’t indicate where the glare came from.

Ultimately, drivers with extra headlights have a responsibility to dim or not project high-intensity lights into oncoming traffic. Responsible driving and use of HID lights helps keep everyone safe.

We’re Here for You

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car crash as a result of HID light glare — or for any other reason — and are seeking legal representation to assist you in achieving financial recovery, please contact the Law Office of William D. Cook at (907) 694-2000. Or, you can complete a brief online form, and we will be in touch shortly to discuss the particulars of your case. We offer free consultations and, in most instances, we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we advance expenses and that you will not pay a dime until we can resolve your case.

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