The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report with the results of their first comprehensive study and ratings on headlights, and it wasn’t very reassuring.
The Toyota Prius is the only model out of 31 vehicles that received a “good” rating. 11 vehicles received ratings of “acceptable” and an additional nine were rated as “marginal.” Three of the 10 vehicles that earned “poor” ratings are considered luxury vehicles and are manufactured by Mercedes and Cadillac.
Research shows that almost half of accidents happen at night, despite the fact that traffic is 25 percent lower and that reduced visibility is a clear factor contributing to accidents. A segment from CBS This Morning (pictured above) put the differences in headlight performance into perspective. At 50 feet, the driver of the Prius can clearly see the bottom half of the person in blue jeans and a deer on the road, however the 3 Series driver can hardly see the feet of the person in jeans and there is no visibility of the deer ahead.
Though there are government standards for headlight brightness, there aren’t requirements or standards regarding their effectiveness. Though headlights may be bright, that doesn’t mean that they provide enough illumination when going around curves or the headlights may cause a glare for the driver.
While new cars are not going to get new and improved headlights over night, this study has brought the importance of headlights to the attention of consumers, manufacturers into and regulators. Next year, the IIHS will incorporate the headlight effectiveness into their overall safety tests and “Top Safety Picks” and in 2019 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will begin testing headlights when it overhauls their New Car Assessment Program.
Depending on the amount of attention the issue gets consumers may see manufacturers improve headlight technology for the 2017 model year. Unfortunately, because a lot of the problem stems from the effectiveness of headlights and not their brightness, buying brighter headlights are not necessarily a quick fix, however, that could offer some improvement for some cars and drivers.