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Driving in the Dark

Poor HeadlightsIt should come as no surprise that nationwide almost half of all fatal crashes occur at night or in the dark with a quarter of accidents occurring on unlit roads.

Headlights were created to improve visibility and safety (crash avoidance) while driving in the dark, but when they are not optimally lit, you will not be able to see on coming vehicles (car, trucks, and tractor trailers), pedestrians and bicyclist, animals, debris in the roadway, and even road marking signs. This often leads to auto accidents and preventable injury and deaths.

Proper headlights can help keep you safe, improve visibility and improve your response time to unexpected obstacles in the roadway. Unfortunately, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on the effectiveness of vehicle headlights leaves drivers in the dark.

The IIHS report tested 165 2018 models and showed that nearly half of all vehicles rated earned a marginal or poor rating for their best available headlights:

  • 32 models earned the highest rating of "good"
  • 58 models were rated "acceptable"
  • 75 models earned either "marginal" or "poor" ratings

IIHS measures the reach of a vehicle's headlights as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Each rating provides information on the amount of visibility provided by low beams and high beams and whether the glare produced for other drivers is excessive.

While testing of headlights started in 2016, this newest study shows there is still a lot of room for improvement. The study also revealed that “good” rated headlights were also among the most expensive ($3000-$6000 for cars and up to $12000 for trucks) and they are often bundled in optional packages. David Aylor, manager of active safety testing at IIHS stated, “Consumers shouldn’t have to buy a fully loaded vehicle to get the headlights they need to safely drive at night. All new vehicles should come with good headlights.”

Having the right headlights is just the beginning. IIHS reports that most drivers rarely use or turn on their high beams. Drivers should learn when to use low beams versus high beams. It is also very important to make sure your headlights are properly adjusted (not too high or too low, or too left or too right), and headlights should be properly maintained and cleaned regularly.