Laser lights like LEDs, have become an essential part of everyday life. They are now more than just the red beams seen in action films, protecting valuable items, which villains have to contort their bodies around. They have many uses from special effects in entertainment, to target systems on weapons and many more. Yet for all their uses they can be dangerous. Their intense narrow beam of light, if shone directly into a person’s eye can cause damage. In most cases this is just temporary but in some more serious examples, it can have a permanent, long lasting affect such as blindness.

Laser pens are a commercially available product. They are a popular teaching aid, allowing a tutor to highlight and pinpoint exact areas, images or words on boards. They also have uses for campers and hikers, the bright beam can scare away animals without causing harm if used correctly. They can also even be used to signal their position if in need of help. However, now that these pens are available for almost anyone to buy they are being misused and utilised in dangerous ways.

The laser beams from the pens pose a serious risk to pilots and air crafts. A trend is occurring whereby people are shining the lasers towards planes. If the light shines into the cockpits it can distract the pilots, and if shone directly into their eyes it can cause vision problems. If these problems occur during landing or takeoff, they could have serious repercussions to safety of all passengers on board. Green laser lights pose the most risk, as the eye is most sensitive to green light.

Glasgow and Manchester appear to have been the main hotspots for pilots being targeted, but it is occurring more and more in other places as well. It is said that in the last three years there have been more than 4500 reports of pilots having issues with lasers being shone into the planes.

For the people using the laser pens, this may seem like an innocent, harmless prank and are most are likely unaware of the serious damage they could cause.To combat this growing issue, a law was passed in 2010 that allows anyone found shining laser lights at aircraft to be charged with a fine of up to £2000. A hefty sum to pay for what may seem a harmless prank at the time.

Above: An example of the dazzling effect inside the cockpit of an airplane targeted by laser pen.

Laser pens have many uses when used correctly, they have saved lives and helped teach, but always bear in mind the risks that come with improper use. If you see someone using one improperly, please remind them of the dangers they may be causing.

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