A new study revealed that headlights on many new car models are “poor.” Before investing in automatic braking systems and self-driving cars, manufacturers may need to get back to basics first to help prevent traffic accidents.
The study, performed by the Insurance Institute of High Safety (IIHS), tested 31 models with 82 different headlight configurations, according to MSN. Only one car model and one configuration tested had “good” headlight performance, and less than half were “acceptable” or above.
The only vehicle to receive a “good” rating was the Prius V from Toyota, but unfortunately for consumers, it’s not quite as simple as just buying the car. The testers found that consumers would have to buy an advanced technology system to get good headlights, according to the Los Angeles Times, which is only available in the top trim level. The standard Prius V halogen headlights are rated “poor.”
So what does “good” mean in the IIHS study?
Using the top Prius V LED lights, a driver could be traveling at 70 miles per hour on an unlit road and still have enough time to see an object on the road and stop safely. For cars with a poor rating, the driver has to be going under 35 miles per hour to brake in time. Another way to put it, the good lights could reveal an object 387 feet ahead; the worst lights, only 128 feet ahead.
According to Matthew Brumbelow, senior research engineer at IIHS, for some models there could be a simple fix to get more visibility.
“Many headlight problems could be fixed with better aim. This is simple enough to adjust on many vehicles, but the burden shouldn’t fall on the consumer to figure out what the best aim is. Manufacturers need to pay attention to this issue to make sure headlights are aimed consistently and correctly at the factory.”
Otherwise, it might be difficult for customers. The study found that the price of the car and the type of light were not necessarily indicative of the level of headlight safety. For example, halogen headlights for the standard four-door Honda Accord were “acceptable,” but the LED or halogen lights for two pricier Mercedes-Benz models were “poor.”
The IIHS study recommends referring to their safety ratings, available here, to judge accurately.
David Zuby, the institute’s executive vice president and chief researcher, explained that even the intensity of the bulb could be misleading.
“We found the same light bulb, depending upon what reflector or lens it’s paired with and how it’s mounted on the vehicle, can give you very different visibility down the road.”
The researchers also tested recent changes to headlight technology. Many newer models are changing from halogen lamps with LED or HID lamps. Likewise, headlights that turn with the steering wheel are becoming popular, but, according to the study, those don’t guarantee better safety.
High-beam assist, which changes the intensity of the light in accordance with the distance of oncoming cars, also wasn’t a guarantee, but with one-third of drivers reportedly using their high-beams regularly, it can be an advantage.
According to the study, the cars that received an “acceptable” rating are the Acura TLX, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Lincoln MKZ, BMW 2-series, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Subaru Legacy, and Chrysler 200.
Cars under the “marginal” rating included the Acura TLX, Lincoln MKZ, BMW 2-series, Ford Fusion, BMW 3-Series, Subaru Legacy, Audi A4, Toyota Camry, and Chrysler 200.
And the study found the following cars to have “poor” headlights: the Buick Verano, Kia Optima, Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Chevy Malibu, Mercedes-Benz CLA, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, and Volkswagen Passat.
[Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images]