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Bright White Auto Headlights

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#1 D.T.

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 09:55 PM

I've been noticing, more and more, the bright white lights (sometimes even bluish) that are appearing on cars.  I would estimate that now, up to a third of cars have bright white headlights.  Obviously, this contributes to light pollution.  It even contributes, in a negative way, to traffic safety.  These are absolutely blinding to oncoming traffic.  In fact, I've noticed that those lights are blinding even in the daytime.  And this is something I would have thought is not possible a few years ago.  Not only are these lights much brighter than older lights absolutely.  But my eyes recover much more slowly with white than yellow.

 

I don't know if the problem is mostly because manufacturers are putting these lights on new cars now, or if these are aftermarket modifications.  I suspect some of each.

 

I have no idea about what can be done about this, if anything.  Furthermore, if people don't care that their headlights may be blinding approaching drivers, potentially causing fatal accidents, how are they going to care that Astronomers can't see the Milky Way, or that birds will fly into buildings?

 

Comments?

 


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#2 leveye

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 11:14 PM

I've never understood why they do this. It's a real problem.


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#3 t_image

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 01:41 AM

Most of what you describe are due to LEDs, that are slanted "blue" in color. It is a bit cheaper to make the "white" LEDs with a more blue color, and the LEDs take less current, and last longer, as well as being annoyingly brighter.

The experience you describe with the blindingness and recovery are due to the shorter blue wavelength for sure.

 

Lots of writing already about those blue lights and its effect on humans.

Ironically, one positive benefit maybe those short wavelength bright LEDs may keep sleepy drivers more awake as it messes with the brain melatonin levels, etc.

https://www.washingt...60ce_story.html

Of course it's not good for wildlife or fireflies, mosquito eating bats, etc.....

But its like the old days of burning coal unfiltered into the air, dumping toxic waste into drinking water ponds, burying nuclear waste in steel drums that only remain intact for 50 years, licking paint brushes with radium paint, etc. We do some stupid stuff with technology until we realize later it wasn't such a good idea.....


Edited by t_image, 20 May 2017 - 01:42 AM.

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#4 pstarr

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 07:42 AM

Living in the country where there are no street lights make these especially annoying. Your eyes are much more used to the dark and the sudden brightness of those lights hurts the eyes. I give them the brights back to let them know I don't appreciate being blinded whether the car came with them or they are aftermarket add ons.


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#5 BrooksObs

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 08:20 AM

Indeed, the relatively recent addition of blindingly brilliant LED vehicle headlights is a significant problem and it appears that virtually all the auto manufacturers are going for them on the latest entries.

 

From a driving point of view the bluish-white LEDs do admittedly extend the driver's visibility range. However, to the on-coming vehicles their level of illumination can be virtually blinding. Even at low-beam setting they far exceed the brilliance of older high-beams! I suppose that for urban residents, with their streetlights and restricted lower speeds, the impact isn't really that critical. However, like the previous poster I live in a rural area without any street illumination on the roadways, or highways. Meeting an on-coming vehicle on a two lane road at night at 55 mph can totally blind both drivers for several seconds...with potentially disastrous results.

 

More to the amateur astronomer's point of view the ever increasing use of the LEDs is adding a new layer of light pollution to suburban and rural area skies, ones that had for a time seem stabilized in sky brightness. Just as I had predicted here several years back when talk of how great the introduction of LED illumination would be for the hobby, exactly the opposite is rapidly coming to pass...the same way as was the case with all the outdoor illumination that was heralded as the savior of the hobby and dark skies in the past, beginning with Mercury Vapor streetlamps.

 

BrooksObs


Edited by BrooksObs, 20 May 2017 - 11:30 AM.


#6 csa/montana

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 08:37 AM

"I give them the brights back to let them know I don't appreciate being blinded whether the car came with them or they are aftermarket add ons."

 

Two blinded drivers is no solution.


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#7 pstarr

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 10:14 AM

"I give them the brights back to let them know I don't appreciate being blinded whether the car came with them or they are aftermarket add ons."

 

Two blinded drivers is no solution.

It's a quick flash, like hey, your brights are on, not a blinding steady light like he's giving me. The guy needs to know his lights are not appreciate. I see cars behind me doing the same thing so it's not just me that is bothered. Maybe the guy will mention to the dealer that he keeps getting flashed because his lights are too bright. If no one ever lets him know they are bothersome, for sure noting will ever be done about it. He will go on thinking how great he can see at night. I will go on being blinded by these Euro contraptions.



#8 Kendahl

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 12:24 PM

Unlike old fashioned sealed beams, the headlights on a modern vehicle are a custom design specific to it. Their performance depends on the skill of the engineer and on the constraints he faced integrating them into the vehicle's overall design. Consumer Reports and IIHS are quite critical of the headlights on many current vehicles. A few are very good and a significant number are pretty bad. My own experience has been that the tungsten driving lights I had 45 years ago were far superior to the halogen headlights on my late 1990s Subaru. The HID headlights on my Infiniti are fantastic. The low beam pattern is very wide with a sharp cutoff to keep it below eye level for oncoming drivers.

 

As far as their contribution to light pollution is concerned, headlights are moving point sources. I think they most closely resemble street lights controlled by proximity switches. When a vehicle leaves, it takes its light pollution with it.


Edited by Kendahl, 20 May 2017 - 12:35 PM.


#9 bumm

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 01:25 PM

Those bright blue lights are really annoying when you meet them on county roads.  It would seem to me they wouldn't penetrate fog, etc, as well as longer wavelengths either.

                                                                                                                               Marty


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#10 sg6

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 02:56 PM

They have been around here for a number of years, guess easily 15+.

A lot are HID headlights (High Intensity Discharge), think these tend to give the "blue" effect, actually it is a prism effect of the light splitting, just the splitting is not that good so you get the blue then the rest merge into white again.

 

LED lights have not been that common so far, although a few advertise them. Not sure if they are better or worse. For some reason I suspect better, not sure why.

 

One aspect is inside the car is a little dial that allows the driver to tilt the headlights up or down and it is fairly common that they move them up - which is actually not the purpose of the dial, which is there to tilt them down.

 

The idea is you set them to a normal height with the dial set at the highest, then when you attach a trailer or similar the back gets pushed down, the front goes up and you use the dial to wind them down again to the correct height. But I guess less then one in a thousand actually do that.

 

Not sure what I think of them, do not have them on mine, never used a car with them, but I prefer to illuminate the road in front of me as much as possible. The roads and users here are a bit manic, the US ones are actually not as bad, but in a way different users.

 

From the history of them here all I can say is "Get used to them, there are not going to go away." But it is likely a case of them being correctly adjusted.



#11 jwheel

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 10:10 AM

They annoy me.



#12 D.T.

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 10:45 AM

Dark country roads are a worst case when your eyes are dark adapted and all of a sudden you get these brights.  But as I said, I've noticed them to be blinding even in the daytime, which is astounding.

 

One thing I want to ask though.  At some point, I'm going to get a new car, as my Subaru Wagon is now 21 years old.  Can I avoid getting a car which blinds other drivers and worsens light pollution?  I'd even consider after market some after markets which are, a bit dimmer, and shifted more toward the red end of the spectrum, if they were available.  But they probably aren't.  Is there anything I can do, when I buy a new car, to not join the blinding crowd?



#13 caveman_astronomer

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 10:56 AM

Dark country roads are a worst case when your eyes are dark adapted and all of a sudden you get these brights.  But as I said, I've noticed them to be blinding even in the daytime, which is astounding.

 

One thing I want to ask though.  At some point, I'm going to get a new car, as my Subaru Wagon is now 21 years old.  Can I avoid getting a car which blinds other drivers and worsens light pollution?  I'd even consider after market some after markets which are, a bit dimmer, and shifted more toward the red end of the spectrum, if they were available.  But they probably aren't.  Is there anything I can do, when I buy a new car, to not join the blinding crowd?

It might help in some situations to watch out for this kind of thing:

 

http://www.stanleysu...ts-turn-off.htm

 

If this happens at a star party, you might wish you had practiced up on your J-turns.  smile.gif



#14 csa/montana

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 11:04 AM

Dark country roads are a worst case when your eyes are dark adapted and all of a sudden you get these brights.  But as I said, I've noticed them to be blinding even in the daytime, which is astounding.

 

One thing I want to ask though.  At some point, I'm going to get a new car, as my Subaru Wagon is now 21 years old.  Can I avoid getting a car which blinds other drivers and worsens light pollution?  I'd even consider after market some after markets which are, a bit dimmer, and shifted more toward the red end of the spectrum, if they were available.  But they probably aren't.  Is there anything I can do, when I buy a new car, to not join the blinding crowd?

Good question.  Ask the dealership if the headlights are adjustable by the driver, and perhaps if different bulbs might be an option.



#15 D.T.

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 11:56 AM

My new car purchase is at least a year away.  I have to wait until I can afford it.  But at this point, it may be pertinent to ask if anybody knows which new cars, or brands, are better choices to minimize light pollution, and not blind oncoming drivers.



#16 D.T.

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 12:14 PM

 

Dark country roads are a worst case when your eyes are dark adapted and all of a sudden you get these brights.  But as I said, I've noticed them to be blinding even in the daytime, which is astounding.

 

One thing I want to ask though.  At some point, I'm going to get a new car, as my Subaru Wagon is now 21 years old.  Can I avoid getting a car which blinds other drivers and worsens light pollution?  I'd even consider after market some after markets which are, a bit dimmer, and shifted more toward the red end of the spectrum, if they were available.  But they probably aren't.  Is there anything I can do, when I buy a new car, to not join the blinding crowd?

Good question.  Ask the dealership if the headlights are adjustable by the driver, and perhaps if different bulbs might be an option.

 

Are there any cars or car brands being sold today that do better as far as light pollution goes?



#17 caveman_astronomer

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 01:31 PM

 

 

Dark country roads are a worst case when your eyes are dark adapted and all of a sudden you get these brights.  But as I said, I've noticed them to be blinding even in the daytime, which is astounding.

 

One thing I want to ask though.  At some point, I'm going to get a new car, as my Subaru Wagon is now 21 years old.  Can I avoid getting a car which blinds other drivers and worsens light pollution?  I'd even consider after market some after markets which are, a bit dimmer, and shifted more toward the red end of the spectrum, if they were available.  But they probably aren't.  Is there anything I can do, when I buy a new car, to not join the blinding crowd?

Good question.  Ask the dealership if the headlights are adjustable by the driver, and perhaps if different bulbs might be an option.

 

Are there any cars or car brands being sold today that do better as far as light pollution goes?

 

Here's a start, but several years out of date:

 

http://www.city-data...headlights.html

 

Look at fourth message, by "Ray."



#18 Kendahl

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 01:47 PM

My new car purchase is at least a year away.  I have to wait until I can afford it.  But at this point, it may be pertinent to ask if anybody knows which new cars, or brands, are better choices to minimize light pollution, and not blind oncoming drivers.

IIHS studied headlight performance of quite a few different vehicles. Search for "IIHS headlight study". Another source is Consumer Reports.

 

Consider used vehicles. We just picked up a three year old Toyota Sienna all wheel drive van with 40k miles for 2/3 of the price of a new one. Our savings would pay for a well equipped, fair sized, premium Dob. The secret to avoiding a lemon is to pay for a pre-purchase inspection by a competent, trustworthy, independent mechanic. If you don't know one, there is a list by city on the web site for NPR's Car Talk.



#19 ImNewHere

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Posted 25 May 2017 - 12:47 PM

How about those super annoying LED light bars that many pickups around here seem to be getting. Those are far, far worse than LED headlights.



#20 Nile

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Posted 25 May 2017 - 05:42 PM

I have discovered, for some of these cars, these lights can not be turned off. I was driving a Acura of a friend, which has similar bright lights. At a light, someone flashed at me telling me I have bright lights, thinking it was on high beam perhaps, but it was not. And I couldn't do anything.

 

For work, I drove 1 hr to and from everyday when The sun was not up on country roads. More than 50% people drove with their high beam on (and many with hundreds of extra lights!) even when the weather was clear. I heard the reason was see deer eyes from distance in high beam. But that was absolutely blinding to me and I feared I might do a head on with someone someday and that will be lot more deadly than a run in with a deer.


Edited by Nile, 25 May 2017 - 05:42 PM.

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#21 Darkskyaz

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 12:21 PM

I've been noticing, more and more, the bright white lights (sometimes even bluish) that are appearing on cars.  I would estimate that now, up to a third of cars have bright white headlights.  Obviously, this contributes to light pollution.  It even contributes, in a negative way, to traffic safety.  These are absolutely blinding to oncoming traffic.  In fact, I've noticed that those lights are blinding even in the daytime.  And this is something I would have thought is not possible a few years ago.  Not only are these lights much brighter than older lights absolutely.  But my eyes recover much more slowly with white than yellow.

 

I don't know if the problem is mostly because manufacturers are putting these lights on new cars now, or if these are aftermarket modifications.  I suspect some of each.

 

I have no idea about what can be done about this, if anything.  Furthermore, if people don't care that their headlights may be blinding approaching drivers, potentially causing fatal accidents, how are they going to care that Astronomers can't see the Milky Way, or that birds will fly into buildings?

 

Comments?

One thing I did last year is mention this in the new car owner survey I took for my 2016 Jeep. Said that I was concerned about blinding other drivers, and pointed out that a lower color temperature would be less blinding. I suggested that color temperature should be no more than 2700K, and amber 2200K might be even better. I also suggested that the lighting could be more directional, pointed more toward the ground, and less into the eyes of other drivers. During WWII, all cars were equipped this way, to prevent cars from being seen from the air.  


Edited by Darkskyaz, 10 June 2017 - 12:23 PM.

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#22 North of Sixty

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Posted 11 June 2017 - 02:07 PM

I was driving back home from a quick road trip up the Klondike Hwy on Friday. It was a clear blue sky day and I was heading south with the sun to the SW and still high and an oncoming car had those headlights on and I had to avert my eyes they were so bright. Didn't catch what kind of vehicle it was and they looked like stock headlights rather than something after market. Just way over the top. I couldn't imagine what it would be like at night. I notice overall at night more and more of these lights are so blinding and nothing seems to be being done about it. Sad to say but it is going to take some bad accidents until something is done about it.  




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