High-Intensity Distracting Lights of Emergency Vehicles at Accident Scenes

When truck drivers approach accident scenes with multiple vehicles, including police, fire trucks, and EMS, with their new, high-intensity lights, this can be blinding and a danger to the truckers. The two questions to address are:

  1. Is this damaging to my eyes?
  2. How can I deal with this situation?

Emergency Vehicles

In addressing the first question, “Is this damaging to my eyes,” there is no direct damage to the eye that is permanent. What occurs is that the rods and cones of the retina are affected by the overstimulation of the high-intensity light. Therefore, there is a normal period of time with which the eye has to recover. The typical amount of time for recovery is approximately 12 minutes. This can occur when you are sitting in a doctor’s office and he shines lights into your eyes to see the back of your eye or when being blasted by high-intensity lights from emergency vehicles. This approximate 12-minute period is required whether you are at the scene of an accident with high-intensity lights or in a doctor’s office who is examining your eyes with bright lights. There is no damage to the eye.

In addressing the second question, “How can I deal with this situation,” the first issue is you must be aware this will not be permanently damaging to your retina or cause blindness to the eye. The best practice to prevent this would be avoiding the lights by turning your head or wearing dark sunglasses to minimize the effect of the high-intensity lights. The best solution is to anticipate that it will take 12 minutes to recover from this. It would be advantageous to drive slowly, avoid the direct visualization of the light by looking at the edge of the road or center line to maintain your safety but avoid the direct confrontation of these high-intensity lights.

Again, the effect is not a permanent one, and there is no permanent damage done to the retina of the eye. Avoiding it by looking elsewhere or wearing dark sunglasses are the best techniques to minimize the discomfort while passing the motor vehicle accident or other emergencies you may encounter while on the road.