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Are Your Vehicle’s Headlights a Safety Hazard?

Oct. 10, 2016

Night blindness is a condition that any one of us can have, not just those with degenerative vision issues. This is particularly true for those of us who do a lot of driving at night. If you’ve experienced problems seeing the road while driving in an SUV, however, the problem very well may be that your vehicle’s headlights are defective or inadequate, not your eyes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recently done a study on 21 small SUVs with all 47 headlight options available and have discovered an astounding lack of quality shared by nearly every major make and model. No vehicle could be recommended for their headlight performance, and only four models would even qualify as “acceptable” out of the 21.

In addition, over 66% of the 47 headlight combinations got a “poor” rating, with 17 of the models having potentially dangerous amounts of glare.

Fundamental Industry Flaws

This study by the IIHS isn’t about mistakes or oversight, it highlights a “new normal” that has accepted the idea that optimal headlights are not at the top of the priority list when manufacturing SUVs. It would make a bit more sense, yet still completely unacceptable, for this problem to only exist in cheaper, lower-tiered vehicles, but it doesn’t.

It would also make more sense for this problem to be tied to basic headlight options that do not come with the technological advances we now have with LEDs, intelligent swiveling, and so-forth, but it isn’t. The price range of the vehicle nor the headlight technology options available were tested to have any measurable difference on the performance and grading of these tests.

IIHS says its rating framework doesn’t support one sort of lighting innovation over the other. Rather, its tests concentrate on the measure of usable light gave by low and high beam settings as vehicles go on straightaways and bends. Testers assessed the headlights utilizing a gadget that measures how far the light is anticipated as a vehicle is driven on five methodologies: straightaways, a sharp left bend, a sharp right bend, a continuous left bend, and a right bend.

Testers additionally measured glare from low lights for approaching drivers. A vehicle with extreme glare on any of the methodologies can’t procure a rating higher than acceptable, as indicated by IIHS.

The tests determine the amount usable light a front lamp gives out in both high/low settings, measured on bends and straightaways. This test is barebones and doesn’t account for present day technology like LEDs and adaptive turning—to be sure, some fundamental incandescent lamps out-performed advanced headlight options. Marks were additionally taken away for lights that produce excessive measures of glare, which is as a rule a consequence of bad calibration. You’ll need to check out IIHS’ official report for more details on their test results.

The Few that Passed the Tests

So, who actually did well enough to earn the coveted “acceptable” ratings in these tests? The highest marks in this disappointing lot, overall, are awarded to the Mazda-CX3. It had the best adaptive headlight technology with LED bulbs that automatically adjusts the high beam when approaching traffic is detected. The low beam lights were also the best rated in their illumination upon turns, but still could use improvement. The three other models that received barely passing grades were the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Hyundai’s Tuscon.

Among the list that stood out as beyond bad was the Honda HR-V. Keep in-mind the bar is so low. It’s almost unfair to single out this poor SUV, but it did have the worst performing pair of headlights on the road. Rain or shine, these cheap bulbs are the worst, and unfortunately you’re stuck with them, as Honda offers no other alternatives in their upgrades. The same is true for 11 other models on the fail list.

Moving Forward

The engineers at the IIHS point out that most of these terrible performing headlights could be fixed with simple recalibrations. As pointed out previously, stronger and more efficient bulbs are useless if they aren’t aimed properly and focused to get as much light on the road in front of the driver as possible.

Those who have been following the life of the modern SUV may note this widespread problem as just another bump in their rocky relationship with consumers. This theme of flash over substance is something that has been an ongoing battle for decades. If companies wish to stay competitive, however, they will need to perform better in the way in safety and security.

Source: IIHS.org 2016 study