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Quarter of motorists ‘dazzled by brake lights thanks to rise of SUVs’

Many people think of disliking bright lights on the roads as an 'older driver' problem
Many people think of disliking bright lights on the roads as an 'older driver' problem - ISTOCKPHOTO

Brake lights are dazzling one in four motorists thanks to the rise in SUVs on the nation’s roads, the AA has found.

A quarter of drivers surveyed by the motoring organisation said they had been blinded by brake lights while sitting in stationary traffic.

The AA said ministers should investigate the brightness of LED lights on new cars to help protect drivers from being dazzled, and advised motorists to use their handbrake in traffic jams instead of resting on the brake pedal.

The survey found that brake lights are now causing similar problems for motorists as LED and xenon headlights, long known for their excessive brightness in certain conditions.

Part of the problem stems from modern lights being mounted on sports utility vehicles (SUVs), the AA said. Some SUVs can be up to six inches taller than hatchbacks, typically driven by new or budget-conscious drivers.

“One cause of discomfort and dazzling from vehicles is the increased sales in (SUV) style cars which have lights positioned higher than ‘traditional’ saloon cars,” said the motoring body. The survey found that a quarter of drivers think brake lights are “more style than substance” on modern cars.

Jack Cousens, the organisation’s head of roads policy, said: “You don’t have to look at too many traffic jams or queues at junctions to see drivers sat on their brake pedal and illuminating the driver behind.

“Considering drivers of all ages say they ‘feel the glare’ from bright brake lights, simply applying the handbrake will help eliminate this problem.”

He added: “The effects and impact of LEDs across our road network, be it from vehicles or infrastructure, needs to be investigated by the Department for Transport and its agencies with recommendations made to protect road users.”

Not an ‘older driver’ problem

The motoring body said that while many people think of disliking bright lights on the roads as an “older driver” problem, more than two thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed claimed they had been blinded by other cars’ headlights.

Similarly, two in five young drivers said they struggled with the brightness of traffic lights, compared with just under a third of drivers aged 65 and over.

While headlights have long been known as a source of irritation for motorists, bright brake lights causing distractions are a relatively new phenomenon.

The rise in headlight and tail light placement over recent years has been fuelled by a boom in SUV sales. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that six of the country’s top 10 best-selling cars last year were SUVs, including models such as the Ford Puma, Nissan Qashqai and the Kia Sportage.

Britain’s most popular car last year, the Ford Puma SUV, is more than 15cm taller than the final model of the popular Ford Fiesta, of which production ended last July.

Increases in headlight brightness became a problem from the 1990s onwards as car manufacturers moved from halogen headlight bulbs to xenon units, and later LED technology.

Compared with 20th century lights, modern high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights emit 40 per cent more glare, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.