As consumers, we rely on our headlights to light the way and keep us safe when driving at night. After all, headlights define a driver’s field of vision, so anything that limits this field increases the risks for everyone on the road. Uncontrolled light from oncoming drivers, often known as glare, is a common limiter of vision when driving at night.
The glare from illegal LED headlight replacement bulbs can make driving less safe and put you in harm’s way. Indeed, more than 50% of traffic deaths happen at night, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts. This statistic is especially alarming because only 25% of driving occurs in the evening.
The truth is that many of the 40,000 annual traffic fatalities could potentially be averted simply by performing better headlight maintenance—and by cracking down on the sale of dangerous and illegal LED low-beam replacement bulbs. Sadly, LED replacement bulbs are being sold illegally for both low-beam and high-beam applications in the U.S.
Drivers are installing these LED low-beam replacement bulbs in vehicles with both reflector-based and projector-based headlight assemblies that were designed specifically for traditional light technology (such as HID or halogen bulbs). Light emits very differently from an LED compared to a halogen bulb, and because this is often not accounted for in the design of illegal LEDs, there tends to be a mismatch between the replacement bulb and the reflector. This mismatch casts a powerful glow that can potentially blind oncoming drivers and cause accidents.
How bad is the glare from these illegal bulb replacements? Here is an easy-to-understand analogy. You wouldn’t drive around all night with your high beams on, right? It is well understood that high beams intentionally flood the road with uncontrolled illumination, casting blinding light in everyone’s eyes—those coming at you and those you are following. As such, they are only intended to be used sparingly, when no one else is in the driver’s immediate vicinity.
Yet, tragically, it is estimated that there are 60,000 illegal LED low-beam replacement bulbs sold online weekly and nearly 2 million consumers have installed these illegal products in their vehicles in the past year. Unfortunately, because these bulbs are readily available online or at specialty stores, many drivers are under the false impression that they are perfectly legal. And, many of these well-intentioned consumers simply have no idea as to the danger they are causing.
The reality is that until we’re able to get regulation that allows manufacturers to design LED low-beam replacement bulbs that will work properly with reflectors designed for traditional bulbs, halogen headlight replacements are the optimum safety option for cars on the road with halogen reflectors.
Here are four quick tips that can help ensure your headlights are safe for the road:
- Always purchase safe and compliant replacement bulbs from a reputable automotive aftermarket supplier
- Proactively replace your bulbs in pairs to avoid burn-outs
- If you have any issues installing your bulbs, consult a professional mechanic to make sure they are properly aligned
- Look for legal headlights that easily identify they are DOT-approved
We can light the way to a safer and brighter future for motorists everywhere by purchasing legal, DOT-approved headlight replacement bulbs from authorized retailers. This provides a guarantee that you are receiving high quality, high performing, safe replacement bulbs that deliver light where it is needed—not where it isn’t.
Written by Greg Bibbo, Director of aftermarket sales and marketing at Sylvania.