Can You See Me Now? Safety Advocates Give Poor Scores to Vehicle Headlights.

August 1st, 2017 by Attorney Julie Butcher

When driving at night in Kentucky there isn’t anything more important than your headlights, especially in rain, snow or fog. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has studied the effectiveness of vehicle headlights, and almost all of them do a poor job. Though they pass federal safety requirements, the IIHS reports they often fall short in real-world situations, according to CBS News. So if you’re having a hard time seeing at night or in low-light conditions, your eyesight or the conditions may not be to blame. It could be your headlights.

Government headlight standards, which are based on laboratory tests, allow a large variation in how much illumination headlights provide in actual driving. Improved headlight performance could make a big impact on reducing accidents resulting in injuries and death in low- or no-light conditions. The Kentucky State Police reports that in 2015 fatal accidents disproportionately happened when headlights were needed:

  • 23% of vehicle accidents happened at night, while another 5.5% happened during dawn or dusk, but,
  • 8% of vehicle accident fatalities occurred at night, with another 7.5% happening at dawn or dusk.

The IIHS studied how well headlights work on 37 different midsize SUV models. Two received good reviews, while 11 got poor grades. While living up to required regulations, as a practical matter those getting poor grades, like the Dodge Journey, make it difficult for drivers to see obstacles in the road with enough time to react and avoid a collision.

One IIHS engineer said one of the worst performing vehicles, the Kia Sorrento, shouldn’t be driven faster than 35 miles per hour in the dark because the headlights work so poorly that a driver’s reaction time won’t be fast enough to respond to something, or someone, in the road if the SUV is traveling at a higher speed.

Researchers looked at 37 SUV’s with 79 possible headlight combinations. Even equipped with their best headlights, 11 models got the lowest rating. The top two models were the Volvo XC60 and Hyundai Santa Fe, which are equipped with headlights that turn when taking a curve to improve visibility.

Last year IIHS released results of its reviews of headlights on light trucks and sedans.

  • Of eleven pickups equipped with 23 different headlight options, just one earned top marks. Another was rated was acceptable; the rest scored lower. While the Ford F-150 is a top-selling pickup and overall gets high safety ratings by the IIHS, its headlights were graded as “inadequate” in all the tests. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline’s headlights did the best, while the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado was ranked as the worst.
  • The Toyota Prius was the only midsize car out of 31 tested to get a good rating. The best headlights available on eleven cars got an acceptable rating; another nine received a grade of marginal. Ten cars are available only with poorly-rated headlights. Spending more on a car won’t necessarily improve headlight performance, as many of the headlights getting a “poor” rating belong to luxury vehicles.

If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in a Kentucky vehicle accident which occurred at dawn, dusk or during the evening, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain compensation for your injuries.