It’s one thing to assume headlights are now more bright than they once were simply because of advancements in technology, but it’s another thing to understand what’s causing the brightness.
As reported by Slash Gear, the introduction of bright LEDs (and high-intensity discharge lights) to new car headlights is the leading factor, considering that LEDs glow brighter, project further, and are vastly more efficient (if more expensive to replace). High-intensity discharge lights have existed for decades, but they’re growing in adoption among newer car models.
However, they can be too bright, potentially disturbing oncoming traffic and causing them to squint their eyes uncomfortably. While these brighter lights have an obvious safety advantage for the driver, the same can’t be said for pedestrians and other drivers on the road. Having lights so bright that they can dazzle an oncoming driver should be avoided.
But we can take a step back and have another look at why headlights seem so bright now on new cars. Slate posits that it’s because of the boom in big car popularity.
Because SUVs and large utes have taller bodies, the bright LED lights shine more directly into the eyes of drivers in low cars or pedestrians on the footpath. The centre of the lights align so that oncoming traffic looks directly into them, making it seem like the lights are brighter than they otherwise would be if indirectly shining ahead.
Back in 2020, the ABC reported that it’s often the aim or the position of the lights that cause the uncomfortable glare. With lights higher off the ground, they aim straight for your eyes.
So, there you have it: it’s a combination of two things. The introduction of LEDs and high-intensity discharge lights, mixed with the physical raising of headlights on cars as they grow in size. Either way, it’s awful.