Those Blinding Blue Headlights
I would love an article in the paper on those purplish headlights that some vehicles are sporting. The colour and glare are horrendous to an oncoming driver. It is hazardous to be driving because they are blinding and one automatically wants to take their eyes off the road or look to the side to avoid them. Are they legal?
This is a complaint that I hear often, especially from older drivers. I don't know if there is a connection, or perhaps that I am just around older drivers more these days! At any rate, this may be from one of two instances, either a standard high intensity discharge (HID) headlamp or an improper retrofit.
Today's newer HID headlamps use a glass capsule of glowing gas to produce light instead of a heated tungsten filament bulb. The system can be two to three times more efficient at producing light than the "old" bulb. This gives the design engineer more light to work with and you more light to see with, particularly in the area immediately in front of your vehicle.
The HID system tends to produce more light in the blue end of the spectrum compared to the filament bulb which tends more toward the red. It appears that it may be the blue tendency that bothers drivers looking into these lights. Research is finding that the HID lamp does produce more discomfort glare but the reason is not currently clearly understood.
HID capsules made to fit standard headlamp housings are available for purchase. These are illegal for use in British Columbia because they produce even more glare than proper HID lamp systems. In the HID system you have a capsule, reflector and lens all designed to work together. Capsules inserted into standard housings and reflectors do not distribute the light properly. This definitely affects oncoming drivers and could prevent proper vision for the driver of the vehicle fitted with them.
If you have a complaint about HID headlamps, Transport Canada is the government agency responsible.
- The disadvantages of HID - Daniel Stern Lighting
- HID conversions - Daniel Stern Lighting
- "Super Whites" - Daniel Stern Lighting
- An Investigation of Headlamp Glare (PDF) - National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
- Why HID Headlights Bother Older Drivers - British Journal of Ophthalmology