Blinded by the light

By Nancy Black

At first, I thought it was my contacts reflecting the lights badly. They are the gas permeable kind, so I have to take them out daily. Then, I thought everyone driving at night was just being a jerk and driving with their bright headlights on. It made me feel very old. Finally, I realized what the problem was — new cars have LED headlights. And they are blinding me at night.

“Is it just me?” I asked my youngest, whom I’m teaching how to drive. “Or does every car coming toward us have their bright lights on?” I was assured it was not just me.

Both my offspring give me a hard time because I have always pronounced the word “LED” like “lead.” I do not say, “L – E – D.” I say lead, like the lead in a pencil. LED stands for light-emitting diode. It is a semiconductor light source, which emits light when a current flows through it. It is often used in electronic displays, on billboards and pretty much anywhere indoor and outdoor lighting are used.

LED headlights are indeed brighter than the standard lights that used to be on cars, but, in Texas, they are road legal, as long as they are not bright enough to blind oncoming traffic. 

According to my online research, some car owners are improperly installing LED lights on automobiles that are made for halogen bulbs. Conversion kits can be easily purchased for less than $60 and they do, indeed, make your headlights dazzlingly bright. It’s like teeth whitening for cars. 

The benefit of retrofitting your car with LED lights is that they have a much longer lifespan than the old timey halogen ones. They are more expensive, of course. But they throw off extremely bright light without using much energy from your car’s electrical system, so that counteracts the high price. 

But, if not properly installed and positioned, they become a driving hazard for others. LED headlights are already brighter than many of us are used to. Improperly installed ones can be intolerable.

There is also another type of headlight becoming increasingly popular these days. They are called HIDs. The term HID stands for high-intensity discharge. explains, “They work by making a current pass between two electrodes, sealed inside the bulb that’s filled with xenon.” 

Whatever! All I know is that these types of headlights are the brightest of them all. And they absolutely DO affect drivers in front and in back of cars that have them. 

It IS against the law in Texas to retrofit any vehicle with HID lights. They must come built in from the factory on a car. 

My eyes are getting tired from just reading about all these new-fangled headlights, much less seeing them on the road. I’m thinking my personal solution is to limit my nighttime driving from here on out. Good thing I’m teaching that teenager how to drive.