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It's Not Just You — Headlight Pollution On The Road Is Real

A man is silhouetted by car headlights as he crosses the streets of lower Manhattan during a snow storm on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in New York. (Wong Maye-E/AP)
A man is silhouetted by car headlights as he crosses the streets of lower Manhattan during a snow storm on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in New York. (Wong Maye-E/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Blinded by the lights. Car headlights, that is. They’re getting brighter and becoming a danger on the road.


Mark Phelan, auto critic and columnist for the Detroit Free Press. ( @mark_phelan)

John Bullough, director of transportation and safety lighting programs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. ( @RPInews)

From The Reading List

The Journal News: “ You’re not just getting older, headlights are getting more powerful” — “The people of Piermont — a small village on the Hudson River — were gathered around their version of the Rockefeller Center tree recently. The tree sits at the base of a big hill that flows into the heart of Piermont’s downtown.

“Songs and cider filled the cold night air as the tree was lit. But faces winced and heads turned away when a car came from the top of the hill, its headlights dazzling some merrymakers.

“Increasingly, this is becoming a regular reaction by motorists from coast to coast, particularly older drivers, as they navigate dark roads.

“Leaps in lighting technology combined with confusing regulations and antiquated laws have coalesced into an everyday evening frustration, one that has had more than one driver asking themselves behind the wheel, ‘Why does that guy have his brights on?’

“Think again.”

USA Today: “ Better headlights needed to improve pedestrian safety after spike in deaths, NTSB says” — “New cars and trucks need substantial improvements, including better headlights, to protect pedestrians following a spike in deaths on U.S. roads, federal safety oversight officials said Tuesday.

“The National Transportation Safety Board said the U.S. needs to update outdated regulations to allow for high-tech headlights and should include pedestrian safety on its new-car safety-rating system.

“From 2007 to 2016, the number of people killed in crashes fell 14 percent but the number of pedestrians killed rose 27 percent, according to the NTSB. The increase was even more dramatic from 2009 to 2016, when pedestrian deaths rose 46 percent to nearly 6,000.

“The NTSB did not appear to draw firm conclusions on what has caused the spike in pedestrian deaths, instead focusing largely on recommendations for vehicle, regulatory and infrastructure improvements.”

BBC: “ RAC says new headlights ‘blinding drivers’” — “Drivers are being temporarily blinded by modern vehicle headlights, according to an RAC survey.

“Two-thirds of drivers say they are ‘regularly dazzled’ by oncoming headlights even though they are dipped, the survey of 2,061 motorists suggests.

“And 67% of those said it can take up to five seconds for their sight to clear with a further 10% claiming the effect on their eyes lasts up to 10 seconds.

“The RAC said advances in headlight technology were causing the problem.”

Automotive News: “ NHTSA’s proposed rule change should help tame headlights” — “With apologies to Bruce Springsteen and Manfred Mann the days of being ‘Blinded by the Light’ may be numbered.

“After years of pleading from global automakers, led by Toyota, NHTSA announced this month that it is considering a dramatic change to the long-standing rules that govern automobile headlights. If approved, the change — currently in a comment period before official review — would allow automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the U.S.

“Put simply, adaptive driving beam headlights make it possible to drive with high beams on without having to worry about blinding other motorists. The high-tech headlights continuously modify and redirect the light coming from each headlight, moving it away from the gaze of oncoming motorists and pedestrians — and the rearview mirrors of vehicles ahead — while better illuminating areas where no vehicles are present.”

Anna Bauman produced this show for broadcast.

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