Good Question: How bright can headlights legally be?

Good Question: How bright can headlights legally be?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — News10NBC has received several emails from viewers concerned about headlight brightness.

If you look straight at them, it can be difficult for your eyes to adjust, especially at night and if you wear glasses or contacts. So how bright is too bright, according to New York State and the federal government?

Steve wrote to us saying: “When is enough, enough with today’s vehicle headlight brightness? What is considered the safe limit? Is there a limit?”

According to Mark Gruba, a communications specialist for AAA, New York State caps headlight brightness at an equivalent of just over 400 lumens or 32 candle power per headlight.

This limit, while strict on a state level, pales in comparison to the federal ceiling, which allows for headlight brightness up to 3,000 lumens. This discrepancy emphasizes the responsibility of car owners and installers to adhere to both sets of guidelines, especially when using aftermarket parts that may exceed these limits.

The transition to LED headlights in newer models brings benefits such as longevity and energy efficiency. However, the increased brightness can be a significant hazard.

Steve, a viewer, shared his difficulty with News10NBC, stating, “These headlights are so bright (on low beams) that I lose the road. High beams are like looking into the sun. It hurts. My eyes take much longer to refocus.”

This sentiment has fueled a push for stricter regulations or even a ban on such bright headlights to prevent potential accidents. Those seeking change are encouraged to reach out to their local assembly members, senators, or specifically the state transportation committee, which oversees transportation-related issues in New York, as advised by Gruba.

Additionally, The Soft Lights Foundation is championing this cause, amassing over 60,000 signatures on a petition to ban LED headlights. For those affected and seeking to join the conversation or take action, getting involved with organizations like The Soft Lights Foundation or contacting local legislators could pave the way for necessary adjustments in headlight brightness regulations.

You can contact the New York State Transportation Committee here and read more about the Soft Lights Foundation here.

If you have a Good Question you’d like answered, send News10NBC an email at

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