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Do Your Headlights Work?

Are you having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night? You are not alone.

In a first ever test and report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that a third of U.S. midsized car model’s headlight’s do a poor job illuminating your way. The study tested 86 types of headlights on 31 vehicles. The tests assessed how far ahead the headlights illuminate in the dark at night and evaluated the low and hi beams for distance.

Of the dozens of vehicles tested in this study only the Toyota Prius LED headlights got a Good rating, with the majority receiving Acceptable, Marginal and Poor ratings. And don’t think spending more money on headlights will improve your visibility – many of the poor ratings came on luxury vehicles. Click here to see the results, and to see if your make and model made the lists.

While the government regulates how bright headlights should be, there are no standards for how far they should reach. The IIHS considers 330 feet on a straightway as a good mark. A video on IIHS’s website shows that at 50 feet, a driver of a Prius can clearly see a person in blue jeans and a deer on the road, but in another very well known luxury vehicle the driver does not make them out clearly.

A USA today article reported – “With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities,” IIHS said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, responding to the IIHS report, noted that its proposed overhaul of its five-star safety ratings will depend partially on vehicles’ use of lower-beam headlights, semi-automatic beam switching and amber rear turn signal light — technologies that are supposed to improve visibility for the driver and other motorists.

“Basically, we agree headlights can and should be stronger,” NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said.

This is a safety concern as there are more than 32,000 traffic deaths last year with almost half occurring at night or during dawn and dusk when visibility is lower. Poor lighting can put you, pedestrians and bicyclist at increased risk of injury and death in the event of an auto accident. In an earlier blog post we mentioned that South Florida, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, continues to have the highest pedestrian and bicycle crashes – fatalities and injuries in the state.

As a result of the study, consumers now wait to see if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration improves headlight standards or if it inspires automakers to make better headlights on their own.