Avoiding Dazzle at Night
Avoiding dazzle at night is extremely important to road safety. When drivers are dazzled, temporary blindness can occur for several seconds; easily long enough for an accident to occur. Dazzle from main beam is perhaps the greatest danger. If you do encounter an oncoming driver who neglects to dip; a very brief flash of your lights may serve to remind them. Don’t make the mistake of ‘retaliating’ with your own main beam if they fail to respond.
When oncoming lights do hurt your eyes, looking briefly to the left-hand verge while they pass can help. Also if dazzle affects you, always be ready to slow down until you regain normal vision. Stop if necessary when it’s safe to do so.
There are things you can do at night to avoid causing unnecessary dazzle to other drivers. One of these is to follow at a respectable distance. Even on dipped beam, your headlights can cause all kinds of problems for the driver in front when reflected in their mirrors. You should keep far enough back whenever possible, so that your lights fall short of the car ahead.
If someone is following you too closely, you can ease the problem if you have a dipping mirror. You can use the lever on the bottom edge of the mirror to tilt it and remove the dazzle. You will still see something of what is behind but the view will more of a ‘dark image.’ Your mirror should be reset as soon as possible. Some cars now have mirrors which dip automatically when light sensors are triggered.
If you don’t have a dipping rear view mirror, all you can do is slow down. If the situation is bad, move the mirror aside slightly. Look for a safe opportunity to pull over to let the other driver pass.
Lights When Stationary
If you’re pulling up to park for any reason, don’t leave your headlights on for longer than necessary. The fixed glare of bright lights can be dazzling, especially in a poorly lit area. Use your sidelights or ‘parking lights’ instead. This is particularly important if you pull up on the right-hand side of the road; in this situation the light beam angles to the left and glaring straight into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
You could also briefly turn down your headlights as a courtesy when you stop to wait for an oncoming vehicle where the road narrows. This would be especially helpful in a dark side street or unlit road where the dazzling effect of lights is more pronounced. Turn back to dipped beam once they’ve come through.
The dazzling effect of lights on stationary cars can be at its worst in traffic queues at lights and junctions. One of the most infuriating things I find is the driver just in front of you who insists on keeping their foot on the brake pedal all the time. Brake lights are very bright, and by the time they move away you have red spots floating in front of your eyes. So take your foot off the brake and use your parking brake while you’re waiting and save your brake light bulbs!