Are you buying illegal LED replacement bulbs?


Safety should be paramount on roads — not only for drivers, but for cyclists and pedestrians. One of the easiest ways to make sure everyone stays safe on the road is to have well-functioning headlights. 

Headlights define what drivers can see, so anything that limits their vision increases the risk of accidents for everyone on the road. However, one of the most common issues with headlights today is when they project uncontrolled light, also known as glare.

If you’ve ever driven a car, you’ve likely been subject to this glare from oncoming traffic at one point or another — it’s blinding, it’s a safety hazard and it’s often because of illegal LED low-beam replacement bulbs.

How bad is this glare, really? Think of moments when you’ve driven past cars that kept their high beam lights on, even though you were in their field of vision. Those high beams flooded the road with uncontrolled illumination and made it near impossible to keep your eyes focused ahead of you. Using incorrectly designed and low-cost LED low-beam replacement bulbs as headlights in your car can create similar scenarios.

Some of the 40,000 annual traffic fatalities in the United States could potentially be averted by cracking down on the sale of these dangerous LED low-beam replacement bulbs, but here’s where it gets tricky — LED replacement bulbs are being sold for both low-beam and high-beam applications in the U.S., even though they are illegal.

An estimated 60,000 LED low-beam replacement bulbs are sold online weekly, and nearly two million consumers have installed these illegal bulbs in their cars within the past year. That’s two million chances to be on the wrong side of a bad glare.

To make matters more complicated, consumers can purchase these often poorly-designed bulbs easily online under the false impression that they are perfectly legal and in compliance with the Department of Transportation’s regulations. They simply have no idea of the danger that they’re inadvertently causing.

When drivers go to install these replacement bulbs, they’re typically putting them in vehicles with either reflector-based or projector-based headlight assemblies. These are designed for traditional lights, like HID or halogen bulbs, which emit very different light patterns compared to an LED bulb. Unfortunately, the difference in beam pattern isn’t accounted for in the designs of illegal LEDs, which are often hastily crafted to sub-par standards. Because of this, there tends to be a mismatch between the LED replacement bulb and the vehicle’s reflector- this is what creates that dangerous glare.

For now, there is no regulation in the U.S. that allows manufacturers to design LED low-beam replacement bulbs that pair correctly with vehicles’ reflectors. When the regulations change and provide legal guidance on the design and performance of these bulbs, you will be able to purchase them confidently from industry leaders that offer safe and reliable products. Until then, your best option is to stick with the technology that your vehicle was designed to use. In other words, use the technology that your reflectors were originally designed for, such as HID or halogen. The DOT has made it easy to identify safe, legal bulbs — just look for the mark on the bulb that indicates they are DOT-approved. You too can do your part to keep our roads safe by purchasing safe and compliant replacement bulbs from an authorized dealer, and by proactively replacing your bulbs in pairs to avoid burn-outs.

To learn more about headlight-replacing best practices, visit (BPT)

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