Driving at night is more dangerous than driving during the day. There is no arguing that. More accidents happen during from dusk until dawn than during daylight hours. Because of the congressional legislation requirements of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put a lot of money toward trying to reduce those numbers.
Headlights likely have something to do with nighttime accidents. Anyone who has driven at night has played the high beam game:: high beams on, oncoming car, dim lights, car passes, high beams on. Repeat. Option two: oncoming driver forgets to dim their lights, or they are in a high-riding vehicle with powerful head lamps, and driver is temporarily blinded. Older drivers can have an especially hard time with oncoming headlights, because their dialated eyes take longer readjust to the dark.
Michael Hill from the Associated Press reports about what came from the NHTSA funding. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) was charged with reducing or eliminating this problem and now believe they have developed a technology that dims the headlights.
There are several factors that the LRC had to consider: headlight glare to oncoming traffic, speeds at which low beams are dangerous (because they don’t illuminate the road ahead well enough), dimming lights too much for safety, etc.
This research took all of that into consideration. What came of it is innovative, and will likely change how every headlight operates in the future. New headlights will sense oncoming traffic. If the vehicles are in the path of the beam, the beam will dim, but only the part that is hitting the oncoming vehicle.
Just take the process by which you look up in sunlight. You look up, but put your hand in front of the glare of the sun, the sunbeams are all around you, but not hitting your eyes. Brilliant.