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Blinded by the light? 8 Investigates examines safety of LED headlights

WMTW Portland ME logo WMTW Portland ME 11/13/2019
a group of fireworks in the sky: headlight glare © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. headlight glare

New LED headlight technology is helping drivers see better while driving at night, but they're also drawing complaints from drivers who say they've been blinded by them.

"When I'm driving at night and cars come at me, I can tell the LEDs are a lot brighter in my eyes," driver Carol Noble said.

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Are the LED light bulbs to blame? 8 Investigates examined the technology and what's safest for drivers.

The LED headlights are designed to light up a larger area for drivers compared to older halogen headlights.

"They're a whiter light, so I do think they provide better vision for folks when they're driving when it's dark. I think they can see a lot better," Saco police Chief Jack Clements said.

8 Investigates found that not all LED headlights are causing the blinding glare.

Experts said the problem is that some car owners are using replacement LED bulbs that are not manufactured for their vehicles.

"After-market products can be problematic if not installed properly," Pat Moody, of AAA Northern New England, said.

A small shift in the angle of a headlight bulb can throw off the light it puts out.

"I don't know that they're setting the height of the headlights the correct distance, and I'm not sure that they're setting them up properly," Clements said.

It's the same reason drivers can see a flash of light when a car hits a bump, experts said.

"If anything is out of whack, you have the potential to cause greater glare for oncoming vehicles," Moody said.

Moody said LED lights, especially ones not installed correctly, catch drivers' eyes because they don't look like the traditional yellow halogen headlights.

"When you see something that's different, it might be brighter. Look down to the right. Follow that edge of the road –- the white line," Moody said.

There is an effort to reduce glare with new headlights that default to high beams but automatically dim when an oncoming car passes by.

"They've come up with this new adaptive beam technology that's making the roads better illuminated," Moody said.

Adaptive beam technology has not been approved in the United States.

In the meantime, drivers who want to switch their car over to LED headlights are encouraged to have a professional do it to avoid blinding fellow drivers.

"The person that's driving the car I'm sure enjoys better visibility, but if you're on the receiving end, it's not so much," Clements said.

READ THE FULL STORY:Blinded by the light? 8 Investigates examines safety of LED headlights

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