The car crash death rate has been trending upward along with the murder rate during recent years. 2020 was exceptionally unsafe per mile driven. One question I have had is whether any recent auto safety innovations have inadvertently led to getting more people killed. Headlights have been getting brighter, but are they now tending to blind oncoming traffic? Driving at night on the winding roads of the Hollywood Hills, where a lot of the cars are new and expensive with very bright LED headlights intended to make it safe for the drivers at high speeds without outrunning their headlights, can be hard on the eyes.
From the New York Times news section:
The rising use of light-emitting diodes and the popularity of pickups and S.U.V.s have prompted complaints about the glare and intensity of headlights.
By Christopher Mele
June 5, 2021
…“Sealed-beam” headlights were used from the 1950s through the 1980s, and generally offered poor light output. Halogens, with tungsten filaments and better output, appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
High-intensity discharge lights, which cast a bright glow that approximates the spectrum of daylight, came in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the 2010s, LEDs became popular because they were longer-lasting, energy-efficient and perceived by automakers as sexy and modern.
But they also prompted complaints that they were too much of a good thing. There is even a Facebook group and an online petition dedicated to banning blinding headlights. …
The trend toward improved headlight illumination has been fueled in part by manufacturers seeking higher safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Professor Kennedy said.
When the institute, an independent, nonprofit research group, released its first headlight ratings in 2016, only one headlight system of more than 80 that were evaluated received a “good” rating. As of March, more than a quarter of those tested received such a rating, the institute said. …
It was not just older drivers complaining, either.
The report said 11 percent of those who rated oncoming glare as disturbing were older than 65, and 45 percent were between 35 and 54 years old. Drivers 18 to 24 years old complained the most about glare from vehicles behind them.
Lights have gotten smaller over time, and “any given intensity appears brighter if it’s emitted by a smaller apparent surface versus a larger one,” said Daniel Stern, chief editor of Driving Vision News, a technical journal that covers the automotive lighting industry.
Have they defrosted headlights?
… LED and high-intensity discharge headlights can appear more blue in their output spectrum than halogens, and they often provoke “significantly stronger discomfort reactions” than warm white or yellowish lights, Mr. Stern said.
“Blue light is difficult for the human visual system to process because blue wavelengths tend to focus just ahead of the retina rather than on it,” he said. …
“Brightness” is not a term generally recognized by scientists and researchers, who refer instead to lumens, or the output of a light. Halogen lights put out 1,000 to 1,500 lumens, while high-intensity discharge lights and LEDs can measure 3,000 to 4,000 lumens.
So, they’ve made them brighter and smaller.