What is the Legal Brightness of Headlights in the UK?

Is there a maximum legal brightness for headlights in the UK?

Maybe you’ve been dazzled one too many times by oncoming drivers, and you want to know whether those other drivers have been breaking the law. Or perhaps you’re considering getting some new headlights for your car, and want to know what your options are.

In this post, we’ll look at what UK law has to say about the legal brightness of headlights, before exploring how this might affect you.

Is There a Legal Brightness for Headlights in the UK?

The law to look at is The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989. This law goes into considerable detail about what’s legal when it comes to headlights in the UK. The law doesn’t exactly specify a maximum legal brightness. But it strongly implies that there is one.

In short, it stipulates that all of your car lights must have an approval mark – often called an E mark – or a British Standard mark. After all, if you fit your headlights with a bulb that’s going to blind other drivers, then it won’t have any marks of approval. So it won’t be legal anyway!

But beyond this, the law essentially states that your headlights must be white or yellow, and that they must be bright enough to allow you to see around 100 metres ahead of you without blinding other drivers.

When Should You Use Your Headlights?

There are laws and stipulations about when and how you should use your headlights. For example, you could get a penalty if you use your fog lights when it’s not foggy. You should also take care when driving with full-beam headlights after dark, to avoid dazzling other drivers.

But in both cases, these are driver behaviour issues, rather than issues with the headlights themselves being too bright.

Why Are Headlights So Bright and Dazzling?

Do you find oncoming lights too bright when you’re driving at night? Do they dazzle you, and leave you feeling disorientated? If this keeps happening, then it might be a problem with you! Book an eye test and talk to your optician. But also, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t stare directly into the headlights of oncoming cars.

Are LED Headlights Brighter?

Some drivers fit their cars with LED headlights. These can be significantly brighter than standard headlights. However, often it’s not the lights themselves that are too bright. Instead, it might be an issue with the way the lights have been fitted. They might have been installed at the wrong angle, in such a way that they’re more likely to dazzle other drivers.

This is one of the things you’ll have to consider if you’re thinking of customising your car with new headlights. Let’s take a look at some of the other legal considerations when it comes to custom headlights.

What Headlights are Road Legal?

Remember: Only bulbs that have that E mark for approval are road legal. If you’re shopping around for new headlight bulbs, look out for that E mark. If you can’t find one, then don’t risk it: The bulb might not be road legal. Some manufacturers will outright tell you if their bulbs are not road legal. But others will not. It’s better to be safe than sorry. So if you’re in any doubt, look elsewhere.

Considerations for Xenon Headlights, and Other Types of Bulbs

High-intensity discharge (HID) lights, filled with xenon gas to make them more effective, are technically illegal in the UK. However, they are perfectly fine under EU regulations. So this is a bit of a grey area: The law allows for EU cars registered in the UK to be fitted with HID xenon lights. But the Department for Transport generally treats the sale and use of aftermarket HID lighting kits as illegal.

When some people thing of HID xenon lights, they tend to picture headlights in cool shades of blue and other colours. And while you might dream of driving a car with glowing green headlights, unfortunately, there are strict laws concerning the colour and intensity of your headlights.

In short, they must be white or yellow. But not too white, and not too yellow. Most manufacturers will specify their bulb’s colour temperatures. Generally speaking, Xenon HID bulbs cannot have colour temperatures in excess of 8000K, and halogen bulbs must not have a colour temperature in excess of 4300K.

Again, it’s best to look at the packaging, and to talk to the manufacturer. If they can’t or won’t tell you whether or not their bulbs are road legal, then it’s time to shop around for a more reputable manufacturer!

How Will Headlight Modifications Affect Car Insurance?

If you fit your car with cheap or faulty aftermarket LED or xenon lights, you could fail your MOT test. And if you’re involved in an accident, your car insurance claim might be rejected.

But will headlight modifications affect the price of your car insurance premium?

This is generally not the sort of modification that could result in a higher insurance premium. But you should still consider how much it might cost to repair and replace any headlight modifications you make in the event of an accident.

Head here to read our complete guide to car modifications and insurance.


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