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New IIHS Headlight Ratings Reveal Need for Improvement

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For the first time ever, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is rating car headlights for effectiveness and safety. So far, only the Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car to earn a “good” rating, and only when equipped with an optional advanced technology package. Eleven other vehicles tested could only be purchased with “acceptable” rated headlights, with nine others receiving only a “marginal” rating. The new rating system has found that a vehicle’s price tag does not guarantee that it will come with quality headlights. In fact, many luxury vehicles were found to contain poorly rated headlights.

Headlights are an extremely important part of a vehicle’s safety. The ability to clearly see the road ahead, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, and obstacles, is obviously an essential for drivers. However, huge variations in the amount of illumination headlights provide are allowed under government standards. Considering that approximately 50 percent of traffic deaths occur at night or in the early hours of the morning, the new rating system reveals that improvements to headlights are greatly needed to combat preventable injuries and fatalities. Since there have recently been many advances in headlight technology, now is an opportune time to draw attention to this issue.

How are Headlights Being Evaluated?

Headlight evaluations are now taking place at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. Researchers measure the light emitted from both low beams and high beams using a special device as the car is driven on the following five approaches: traveling straight, gradual right curve, gradual left curve, sharp right curve, and sharp left curve. The researchers also measure the amount of glare for oncoming vehicles. The findings are them compared to those of a hypothetical ideal headlight system. Vehicles that produce excessive glare cannot earn above a “marginal” rating.

The IIHS is testing every possible headlight/vehicle combination possible as they become available from dealers. Out of 82 headlight ratings for 2016 model year cars, only one vehicle, the Toyota Prius v, received a “good” rating. Testing has revealed that among the 44 poorly rated headlight systems, the halogen lamps that come with the BMW 3 Series are the worst.

Visit the IIHS online for more on headlight testing and for the full ratings list.

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