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Thread: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

  1. #1

    Default High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    I'm curious if there are any studies or data that show how much the high beam indicator on the dashboard affects our night vision. I have a 2014 Chevy Express van and the indicator is very bright. I find myself shielding my eyes from it with my left hand. I feel like it must be lowering my ability to see well at night. Any proof that it is or isn't?


    It reminds me of a Dodge Magnum I rented years ago. I was driving about 300 miles at night and finally had to put something over the dash to dull the bright light from the instruments glowing. The gauges on that car reminded me of the Timex Indiglo watches. It was crazy how bright it was, even at it's minimum setting.

  2. #2

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    It is quite annoying.

    Most of our drivers cover the indicator with a piece of electrical tape or a sticker. If your too tired too tell if your highbeams are on or not then your too tired too be driving.

  3. #3

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    I'm not sure driver vision degradation from dashboard lights has been studied in quite that fine a grain (specifically the high beam indicator), but the answer to whether it is degrading driver vision to some degree is YES. There is always some disability glare (light that degrades your ability to see) from any light source within your field of view. It might or might not be physically annoying or painful -- that's "discomfort glare" -- but there is always some disability glare.

    I agree that many of today's high beam indicators are far too intense, and the fact that they're blue makes it even worse.

    But it's far too easy to drive around with your high beams on even if you're awake and do your best to pay attention to it. An indicator doesn't guarantee against it, but it helps. The indicator shouldn't be obnoxious or more than very minimally disruptive to night vision, but there's no law against it. Same goes for permanently-lit dashboards and consoles and "accent lights" and "infotainment centers" and all the rest of it.

  4. #4

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Virgil- View Post
    I agree that many of today's high beam indicators are far too intense, and the fact that they're blue makes it even worse.

    But it's far too easy to drive around with your high beams on even if you're awake and do your best to pay attention to it. An indicator doesn't guarantee against it, but it helps. The indicator shouldn't be obnoxious or more than very minimally disruptive to night vision, but there's no law against it. Same goes for permanently-lit dashboards and consoles and "accent lights" and "infotainment centers" and all the rest of it.

    My statement above comes from rural truck driving, where it is blatantly obvious if your highs are on or not, no other light sources to hide it...

    Modern infotainment centres are downright criminal.

    My grand prix does it right, the controls for the HUD allow me too kill all the dashlights and leaves the essentials on the glass. The dash lights are all red, and are fully adjustable. When I got a new HU i made sure it had a button just too kill the display so i can knock that off too.

    Most of the OEM touchscreens and infotainment stuff is waaaaaaaaaaay too bright, even big trucks are following this trend, with no convient way too dim or kill them completely.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    My mother's Ford tempo had an obnoxious highbeam indicator, she covered it with a camel cash slip. My cutlas had the same issue but my impala allowed the indicator to dim with the rest of the dash lights whereas the other cars had not. I've found this frustration many times over the years.
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  6. #6
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    I've been tempted to try to hack it so that when the Twilight Sentinel detects it's dark enough for headlamps, it's dark enough to dim the high beam indicator. The high beam indicator probably should be brighter in the daytime so you're not accidentally driving with high beams on in the day. It's still obnoxious to other drivers, and harder for you to detect absent reflections in the cars' trunks in front of you, or similar.

    What really irks me is the green telltale that my headlamps are on. They also are one more light source I don't need in front of my eyes while I'm driving. I'd prefer a red light that came on to tell you that you *need* headlamps on, not a green one to tell you they *are* on. Perhaps another indicator I could tie to the Twilight Sentinel.
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 11-21-2017 at 08:58 AM.

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    Flashaholic Fresh Light's Avatar
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    It bothers me too. I don't understand why they can't have the high beam indicator tied into the dash dimmer. It's the same way on my 2005 VW as it is on my 2015 Audi. There is no way of mistaking HID low beams and high beams. After looking at several states laws including my own they all basically say the same as this passage from the OH revised code:

    "(2) Every new motor vehicle registered in this state, which has multiple-beam road lighting equipment shall be equipped with a beam indicator, which shall be lighted whenever the uppermost distribution of light from the headlights is in use, and shall not otherwise be lighted. Said indicator shall be so designed and located that, when lighted, it will be readily visible without glare to the driver of the vehicle. "


    The letter of the law basically just says the indicator must be visible with out glare. No manufacturer would want to risk litigation by having a non-readily visible HB indicator causing the operator to get a ticket or cause an accident by dazzling oncoming drivers with their high beams. Of course this is in contrast to the indicator actually being annoyingly bright and causing eyestrain to the operator. Additionally, I would not be at all surprised if driver distraction and discomfort are worse now that back lighting on these indicators are no longer the dimmer wide-spectrum incandescents.
    Last edited by Fresh Light; 11-21-2017 at 09:05 AM.
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  8. #8
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    On my '65 Dart, it was red. Harder to spot in the daytime, but perfectly fine for the nighttime-- it was visible but not obnoxious.

    Perhaps blue might make more sense than red (it's not signalling an engine problem), but definitely could stand to be a little dimmer at night than in the daytime. (And definitely we should pick ONE color and stick with it, not make it blue in the daytime and red at night. Drivers are confused enough already by what the "turn signal stalk" does.)
    Last edited by Alaric Darconville; 11-21-2017 at 09:12 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    State statutes such as the Ohio code cited by Fresh Light are null and void because they are preempted by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 101.

    The Grand Prix mentioned by Sadden does not "do it right" if all the dash lights are red. That violates another basic principle of correct design and ergonomics: you don't misuse emergency/danger colors (red) for general illumination or for non-urgent messages.

    Yellow/amber, a "soft" yellow-green, or a warm white are all fine for general dashboard illumination. We had it that way for many years without problems, but then it became a free-for-all. I guess "infotainment" is less "infotaining" if the dashboard doesn't look like a rave party...

    (Yes, I'm aware I sound like an old fogey. Doesn't make me any less right about it!)

  10. #10
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    My Jeep was HORRIBLE for this until one day I had the dash open for something else so I also added a few layers of frosted tape behind the display which dimmed it down nicely.

    My wife's car -does- dim her high beam indicator with the rest of her lights. It's the only car I've ever seen do so.

    My Volt really isn't bad especially considering all the displays. You can dim stuff WAAAAAAY down which is good since it's all LCD display screens anyway.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    I wish my H-beam indicator was dimmable...in any of may cars...my Corolla it's like a blue laser...
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  12. #12

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    My 17 Accord's dash lights and infotainment system can be dimmed so low that it is hard to see even at night and your eyes are fully adjusted. If thats not low enough for you there is a button to completely turn off the infotainment system altogether. The only lights that don't dim are the high beam indicator, blinker indicator, and low and foglight indicators. Not sure what was so hard about connecting those to the dimmer switch too.

  13. #13

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    This is so anoying to me. I often drive thousands of miles to do work and then drive back in company trucks (i'm a mechanic in the oilfield) most of them are newer model fords and i'm often going on a few hours of sleep. I can physically stay awake by pulling over doing some exercises to get the blood moving but nothing helps the eyes and these trucks will dim all the interior lights except the indicators. That cruise control on light in the new fords is particullary painfull on eyes that have been open for 30 hours. Company fuel card covers it up fair enough and keeps it handy for fuel stops i like my 2005 gmc 2500hd it (to me) is the right colors. i don't know if they dim with the other interior lights or not as it hasn't been an issue....anyways i kinda agree indicators should be noticeable but shouldn't they dim at some percentage to the lights around them and standard sensible colors like virgil said

  14. #14

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one bothered by this!

  15. #15
    Moderator Alaric Darconville's Avatar
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    Quote Originally Posted by Magio View Post
    The only lights that don't dim are the high beam indicator, blinker indicator, and low and foglight indicators. Not sure what was so hard about connecting those to the dimmer switch too.
    Because if the dimmer switch fails in a particular way, you'll lose those internal indicators. It's one thing to drive along ignorant of your instant fuel economy or your engine temperature, but turn signals convey information to other drivers and if you're not aware that they're on, or not aware that they didn't come on, then that's a whole different set of problems.

  16. #16

    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaric Darconville View Post
    Because if the dimmer switch fails in a particular way, you'll lose those internal indicators. It's one thing to drive along ignorant of your instant fuel economy or your engine temperature, but turn signals convey information to other drivers and if you're not aware that they're on, or not aware that they didn't come on, then that's a whole different set of problems.
    I hear you about the blinkers. But that still doesn't explain anything about why the other lights don't dim. Some older cars, didnt even have lowbeam indicators period. Since they are not required why can't they be allowed to dim? In my car the lowbeam indicator is nearly as annoying as the highbeam indicator.

  17. #17
    Flashaholic kingofwylietx's Avatar
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    Default Re: High beam indicator - how much does it affect our night vision?

    Back in the day, when I rode motorcycles, some folks figured out that they could take apart the indicator lights and place a cotton swab in there (between the LED and lens) to dim the high beam indicator. It was still quite functional, but it was no longer blinding at night. Today, vehicles are probably too complicated to disassemble for performing such a modification.

    At night, I tend to keep my dash lights on the lowest setting and turn off my infotainment system display (there is a soft button in the menu).
    I had a rental Ram truck, it had a dedicated switch for turning off the infotainment system display. I thought that was quite novel!

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