Have things changed, are people ruder, or am I just older? [Re headlights]

After years of living only four blocks from work, I now find myself commuting an hour each way on rural highways. It’s always before the crack of dawn when I leave for work, and I expect I will be driving home in the dark for much of the school year.
What I am finding now is that I feel more discomfort from other drivers’ headlights than I ever did in the past. It seems like most the vehicles behind me and oncoming traffic all have much brighter headlights than they used to. I end up turning my side view mirror to point toward the ground so I am not blinded by the cars and trucks behind me. For oncoming traffic, I follow advice from Ann Landers from decades ago about looking toward the side line until the bright lights have passed.
I have seen some dim their lights before they get near me, and their lights are still too bright. I can’t tell if others (especially the 18-wheeled bullies) just don’t concern themselves with other drivers. Is it that manufacturers have made headlights that much brighter, are headlights aimed higher, are people just not dimming their lights, or is greater sensitivity to light a symptom of getting older?

Can’t it be all three?

But WRT headlights, I’m surprised there isn’t laws about them (or if there is, they’re not enforced). It seems like it would be somewhat simple to have a maximum brightness, range of color temperature and where they have to be aimed. If I’m squinting and you’re still a mile down the road from me (even more so if this is in broad day light and/or you’re coming from behind), you’re lights are too bright or too blue.

Also, I can’t decide if it’s worse when they come from the factory like that or someone just upgrades their own headlights.

And, to be fair, you can have obnoxiously bright, annoyingly blue headlights that don’t blind people as long as they’re aimed properly.
Whenever I see these, I wonder what would happen if “we” all agreed to start flashing our brights at the offender. How long would it take for them to decide that getting a face full of high beams every time they leave the house is getting old and put their regular bulbs back in?

I’m not ‘old’ and I find it very annoying. I get my retina’s burned every damn day by someone driving with them on full brightness. My headlights are even notoriously dim (new wiring harness, grounded properly etc, still sucks) and I have an HID light kit in my car that I never use, because of how annoyingly bright the stock headlights are on other peoples cars. I don’t want to be another as*hole blinding people.

I wondered this as well, why are the headlights so much brighter these days? I can see it being more of a hazard than anything. I hope someone has an actual answer as to why. Its a major peeve of mine and I wonder about it all the time.

Since it’s unlikely there is a definitive answer to this, let’s move it to IMHO. Title edited to clarify subject. Please use descriptive thread titles.

General Questions Moderator

Yes. Headlights are brighter. Some are much brighter. And with age, the pupil becomes less responsive to variations in light. It takes longer to react, and the range available is smaller.

it’s (probably) not people being inconsiderate, but as has already been said modern headlights are just plain more intense. the old incandescent sealed-beam headlamps up through the '80s were useless. Halogen sealed-beams were better. Halogen capsules from the mid-80s on were hit or miss.

now, many cars have either high-intensity discharge (HID) arc lamps, or LED headlamps. Both produce light that looks like intensely bright white, but if the light passes through something which refracts it a bit such as your windshield or eyeglasses, it can diffract out an annoying blue portion of the light. Blue light is hard for our eyes to focus on, and can be annoying or painful as glare.

a) In my case I know its all three. :wink:

b) At least in PA there are laws and some (like point of aim) are sometimes enforced on inspection but the chances of a cop pulling you over for something like having your high beams on at the wrong time/situation or some funky after-market beams are pretty slim. If you do get pulled over its more because you have somehow aroused their suspicion and they are using it as a basis to check you out. The exception is some more rural areas where complaints from the few houses along the roads and the part-time nature of the officers changes the dynamic somewhat.

I have made an interesting observation, since I moved to the Philippines. I live in Cebu a city of 3-million. There are no traffic lights or stop signs. Traffic appears chaotic, and traffic jams can be dense. I travel by public transport every other day or so. I always get where I’m going, in a reasonable time. The driver never exhibits impatience, and certainly never anger. Road rage would be an unimaginable concept. All drivers are equal, there is no right of way, karma takes care of that. To pull out from a side street to go left into a traffic jam, my driver just starts creeping out, and someone lets him through. When I get to my destination, he make a U-turn in the middle of a block to let me off on the right side of the street. Everything is cool.

Exactly the opposite of the USA, with its I-got-here-first structured hierarchy and privileged classism of road traffic.


*"To an older driver, lights are brighter because their eyes are more sensitive than someone in their 20s. It’s a common complaint in the industry,’’ said Bibbo. “An older person’s eyes don’t adapt as quickly. When an older person sees headlights coming on, it’s harder for them to recover than a younger driver.’’

Dr. Scott Greenstein, attending ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a Harvard Medical School faculty member, said older drivers have a higher incidence of cataracts, glaucoma, and weakened retinas, in a condition known as macular degeneration, all of which lead to more problems driving at night.

“In general, as people age the lens loses some of its clarity that’s there when we’re kids,’’ he said. “It’s more of an effort to drive at night because there’s less illumination, more glare. Many people, particularly older people, are bothered by oncoming lights.’’

Unfortunately, aside from wearing sunglasses, which reduce road glare but may not be a good option at night, there’s not much older drivers can do. A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told me the federal government is studying ways to reduce headlight glare, particularly for older drivers. But it’s anyone’s guess as to where that will lead."*

It’s become harder for me to tell in recent years when oncoming drivers have their brights on*, and I occasionally have people flash their brights at me in warning when I don’t have them on.

*not a big glare problem, but inconvenient on a narrow, otherwise dark two-lane road I travel when coming home late from work, which is most of the time.

I was just reflecting on this last night, while driving home. I do have one car which, when I’m driving it, a lot of people seem to flash their lights at me, indicating they think my brights are on. I sure don’t notice extra brightness as the driver of the car. I give a quick bright flash to indicate that my brights are NOT on. (Not always, but sometimes.)

As to other peoples’ lights, I have this pair of yellow sunglasses that purports to help with glare at night. I think it does something to the blue, without dimming the rest of the night world. These glasses were called “night vision glasses” and it seems to me they do help with the oncoming lights a bit, but it might just be having another surface in between my eye and the glare. They certainly don’t enable me to see better in the dark but, as I said, they don’t make things darker.

If I’m on a rural, two-lane road at night, I will have my brights on. I dim them as soon as I see an oncoming car, and about half the time the other driver also dims. Sometimes that makes a notable difference, other times it doesn’t, and in the half of the times they don’t, I have to presume they just have bright lights and aren’t being rude and leaving their high beams on. As I drive into them…(nope, kidding).

I totally agree it’s a problem, but I think it’s two out of three – not that people are ruder, but that many of us are older and to compound the problem, new headlight technology is downright dangerous. It was bad enough with HIDs, but now super-bright super-blue LEDs are becoming commonplace, and they’re every bit as bad.

A little while ago I bought a 3-pack of tiny little miniature LED flashlights that I keep in various places around the house for occasional emergency use. The packaging actually warns that they are so high in UV that you should never shine them in anyone’s eyes, and they are in any case an uncomfortable glaring blue-white that literally make my eyes hurt just from the reflection. I thought it was because they were a cheap Chinese make but this is exactly what LED headlights look like to me. You know it’s bad when you sometimes find the glare annoying in broad daylight! Those damn things should just be illegal instead of being installed as standard equipment on so many new cars!

Living in Hawaii again for a year now after going to school here in the early 1990s, I am definitely seeing a downturn in the Aloha Spirit. At least one local agrees with that. I blame overpopulation. It is noticeably more crowded, with a population increase of about 25%. The number of cars has increased substantially too, and road rage is on the rise.

A 60-some-year-old checking in here…

My eyes are definitely less able to cope with bright light now and I find myself squinting even when the other car does not have its high-beams on. So, no. I don’t think people are ruder as much as the headlights are brighter and I’m decrepit.

There should be a law, perhaps, as to how high head lights can be mounted on a vehicle. On the huge SUVs, the headlights are so high that the dims are staring right into the eyes of a driver in a normal car (yes, soccer mom, you’re driving a truck!). Also, the roads are now full of jerks who burn their factory fog lights constantly. I guess they don’t realize how blinding they can be or maybe they just don’t care.

fog lights shouldn’t be blinding at all, they’re supposed to project a wide “bar” of light downward several feet in front of the car. sounds like you’re seeing idiots who have put HID capsules in their fog light housings and mis-aimed them.

…or they are three feet off the ground on a lifted dually.

Very timely. Just yesterday I was blinded by the brightest lights I’ve ever seen on a vehicle. This pickup truck had a bar of extremely bright lights mounted on the front grill just under the bumper, running the width of the grill. You know in the movies how they show a sports stadiums lights coming on (with the cha-*chunk *sound)? It felt like that.

I do this too. And I do it because I also remember it from Ann Landers. :slight_smile:

Thanks, everybody. As I am (as meteorologists would put it) mid-to-upper 40’s, I know my eyes are aging, but I didn’t think that was the only reason.
As far as people not being ruder, what possible reason is there for people to have bright headlights (not daytime running lights) on when the sun is shining? Then there are the 18-wheelers, tailgating me when I am going the speed limit in the tiny towns the highway passes through or when I am not going fast enough to suit them.

I think the daytime running lights on some vehicles are the high-beams. I read this somewhere a few years ago but no cite. It was an article saying DRLs are bad because they make it harder to see pedestrians (from your point of view if there’s a car with DRLs near the ped).

Since I have a new car with adaptive and “automatic” lighting, I’m wondering if that’s adding the problem, too. I can put it on “auto” with my brights on and it’s supposed to sense oncoming vehicles, vehicles in front of me, and lighted areas and dim the lights but I don’t think it does a very good job, and I’ve turned it off. I’m sure a lot of people that have this feature don’t care and leave it on.

I caught a face full of light bar a few months back. It was coming up behind me and for a while I thought it was the sun reflecting off their front bumper. I have a picture of it somewhere, I’ll have to see if I can dig it up.

I was going to say that I’ve never heard of DRLs that are brights, but it does seem like a lot of people drive around with their brights on.

I’ll also go on record as saying I think it should be illegal for motorcycles to ride with their brights or install mods so their headlights flicker. Yes, I saw you. I saw you right when I first noticed your headlights, then I spent then next 30 seconds doing everything I could to not see you. So I wouldn’t be blinded.

I will say I have noticed more and more bikes weaving back and forth as they approach a driver pulling off a side street (SMIDSY, I know), so that’s good.

I also always appreciate it when I have a pick up behind me in a drive through and they turn their headlights off. One more person that probably won’t go out of their way to be an ass, just in life, in general.