WASHINGTON -- Government auto-safety regulators say they will open a preliminary inquiry into whether a new generation of super-bright headlights pose driving dangers, responding to hundreds of complaints from consumers who say the lights produce blinding glare for oncoming traffic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will issue a ''notice requesting comment'' this summer to begin organizing data and anecdotes related to consumer complaints about ''high-intensity discharge'' lights, or HIDs.
The preliminary investigation could lead to new rules governing the design of HID lights or, according to some government sources, the NHTSA ultimately could re-examine all rules affecting exterior lights on cars and trucks.
The lights, first used in the United States on Ford's 1996-model Lincoln Mark VIII luxury coupe, now appear on a variety of German and Japanese luxury cars, and on a few luxury sport-utility vehicles, such as the Infiniti QX4.
The American Automobile Association, the nation's largest auto owners club, is also looking at the issue in hopes of avoiding a civil war among its members. AAA members who have the lights love them. But that opinion is not shared by many AAA members who have faced an HID-equipped vehicle at night, association officials said.
''We've gotten tons and tons of complaints, which is why we're opening up an inquiry and looking at glare in all its glory,'' said David Willis, president and chief executive of AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety.
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