Everyone is aware of the usefulness of headlights. At night, headlights are essential to, well, seeing things – and headlights can even be useful during the day in certain circumstances as well.
However, a recent study seems to indicate that not all headlights are created equally – and some are even significantly worse than others at maximizing visibility on the road.
Evaluating Headlight Quality
Earlier this week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released their findings on their first-ever research on automobile headlights. Putting 31 midsized vehicles through a battery of tests, they concluded that most headlights don’t perform as well as ideal headlight measurements and conditions.
The IIHS carefully evaluated different configurations of 2016-model vehicles for a total of 82 headlight ratings. These different configurations include differences in headlight types – such as halogens, LEDs, and high-intensity discharge (HID) – and differences in technological features, such as adaptive headlights that turn as your vehicle turns. Some vehicles even have an option for high-beam assist, in which the vehicle automatically turns on high-beams when necessary.
Most Headlights? Not Very Good
Of the 31 vehicles reviewed, only one car earned a “good” rating: The Toyota Prius V with LED lights and high-beam assist. According to the IIHS, the Prius V had enough light visibility and coverage to identify an obstacle on the road at 70 mph and still have enough time to brake to a stop. By contrast, the Prius V with halogen lights would need to drive at 50 mph to be able to avoid a collision.
While only one vehicle earned a “good” rating, a whopping 44 of the 82 configurations earned a “poor” rating. The worst of the bunch was the BMW 3 series with halogen lights. Someone driving this car would have to be going 35 mph or slower in order to prevent a collision with an obstacle at night – half the speed of the Prius V.
Interpreting the Results
There are other takeaways from this study – aside from the fact that most headlights are bad:
- Paying a premium for luxury vehicles doesn’t necessarily mean better headlights. Some of the poorest performers in this study were luxury vehicles, often with adaptive technology.
- Some vehicles performed poorly on the road due to glare. The Kia Optima, for example, had acceptable visibility, but produced excessive glare for oncoming vehicles.
- The newer technologies weren’t necessarily better than the older ones. In some cases, such as in the Honda Accord, the basic halogen lights won out over the newer, more expensive LED lights.
In light of all this data (no pun intended), it’s clear that auto manufacturers may have to retool their headlight designs for maximum safety. While there are no current laws in place to regulate the visibility strength and quality of headlights, studies like this may be invaluable in aiding those efforts.