Xenon lights spark debate

14.45 | 2 November 2010 | | 6 comments

The increasing use of Xenon car headlights, which are up to three times brighter than standard halogen bulbs, is sparking a debate about whether they increase or decrease safety.

40% of road traffic collisions take place in the hours of darkness. Driver tiredness and alcohol related factors play a part, but poor lighting is also considered a significant factor.

The growing popularity of Xenon lights is based on the simple premise that the more you can see, the safer you will be.

On the one hand, reports say that Xenon lights viewing radius is increased by up to 70%, which helps to illuminate blind spots on the road and enable drivers to see hazards such as debris, animals and pedestrians.

However, there are counter arguments that the lights have dangerous implications for safety as their brightness can blind other motorists.

Ken Parham, a London cabby, was so disturbed by the lights that he and Howard Redwood, a driver training consultant, have set up an online petition to persuade the government to investigate what they consider a serious problem.

Ken Parham says: “I was getting regularly blinded by fellow taxi drivers. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people and about 75% agreed that there appears to be a problem with this new type of headlight.”

Click here to view the petition.


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    I think having automatic lights is dangerous and I for one do not like this idea for this to be implemented in any vehicle and the reason has been stated here already. for a computer to have full control of lights is not a good idea. I would personally rather having full manual control of my vehicle than some computer.

    John, Dublin, Ireland
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    Yes David – I’m all for educating drivers but you must agree that there are those who either through being oblivious or plain stupidity (how do some people not remember or even notice their lights are not on when it’s really dark?), auto lights will ensure that they will come on when starting the engine and thus reduce the chance of a crash especially when someone flases them and another driver mistakes it for a signal!!

    Never heard of the VW headlights turning off on approach to a car with Xenon’s fitted but they will still be on sidelights at least.

    By the way – I’m not completely in favour of auto headlights as the sensor on my Clio is fooled by tunnels, trees etc! It just helps our road safety cause by ensuring some people are being seen (and safer?)!

    Joe, Sefton
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    Automatic lights are not the answer: some VWs fitted with this technology actually switch off the headlamps when a car fitted with Xenon lights approaches – the lights are so bright that the system thinks it is daylight. As usual, the answer must lie in educating drivers.

    David, Suffolk
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    With any new technology, some will be uncertain of its value and if it represents change from a known system, suspicion is rife. With something that appears to blind other drivers, antagonism adds to a call for evaluation with intent to restrict or ban. This will be an expensive process and of dubious value. If we are to follow such a route with brighter bulbs, should we not have advanced from a paraffin wick lamp? Would our brakes still be of wooden block against a steel rim?

    I ride a motorcycle, and the increased illumination from my ONE headlight when converting from a Tungsten bulb to a Halogen was most welcome. No cries of banning from any quarter, and they have been fitted as standard on almost all vehicles since. When I changed to a Xenon bulb around ten years ago, which claimed to be UP TO 30% brighter (not three times brighter), there was a further measurable increase in visibility for me and no experience of dazzling others as the light is correctly adjusted.

    The lamp units that are fitted to many modern vehicles are fitted with Dioptic lenses, and in themselves can cause light spreads different from parabolic reflectors and fluted lens. It should be determined precisely what is at the root of complaint before declaring desires to ban a specific element as advantageous as better vision when correctly fitted and adjusted.

    Note: Our recently acquired 13yr old Ford Fiesta has an adjuster for dipped beam, controlled from the dash, and actuated by electric motor. Modern day cars seem to be catching up with the Citroen 2cv’s adustable headlamps, which were standard fitment from its introduction in 1948. I wonder if screams of derision and protest were heard across the land.

    Derek Reynolds, Herts
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    I have no problem with the safety aspect of increased visibility though that would definately be an improvement on say country roads without illumination. The better lighting effect would be somewhat negated in town traffic situations and in wet weather with increased glare.

    My main concern is quite simple, most cars are nowadays manufactured with lights that can be raised or lowered and I find that some drivers do not know this, or at the least are not bothered if they give oncoming cars grief by dazzling them when their lights are still set on high when in town. They could well be brought down to low, and not cause other drivers to be blinded.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    Headlights that can illuminate blind spots and have a more natural whiter light like the Xenon can only be a good thing for driver safety but ANY badly adjusted headlights which include halogen can only be counter productive.

    I have noticed quite a few cars driving in these dark conditions with no lights on at all (How?)and perhaps if more cars were fitted with automatic lights which switch on upon starting the engine when the light sensor senses low light levels would overcome this problem?

    Joe, Sefton
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