Modern vehicles have taken tremendous steps forward in overall safety, including things like air bags, crumple zones, adaptive braking and much more. Surprisingly, headlight technology in the U.S. has not changed much, due to standards in place since 1967. The issue has become so significant, that in 2016, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety began testing new vehicle headlight systems, giving them a rating of either good, moderate or poor. In the 2016 model year, only 2 of 95 headlight systems received a rating of good. By 2020, only 6 vehicles of 159 tested received a good rating across all trim levels. Often, safer headlight systems are only offered as optional.
Why do we need better headlights? Two major points to consider.
Poor quality headlights limit the distance that the driver can see down the road and offer less clarity of vision. If you see an obstacle or dangerous situation in front of you, it is too late to stop your vehicle before engaging it. When reaction time, vehicle braking distance and visibility are calculated, any speeds over 45 mph become unsafe.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a grandparent, parent or even yourself saying “I don’t like driving at night.” Research shows over time eyes become less sensitive to light. On average, a 50 year old driver needs twice as much light for the same visibility as they did at age 25.
How can you improve your headlights?
One fairly simple way is to make sure that your headlights are properly aimed. Lights that are pointed too high will blind oncoming drivers. Lights that are pointed too low will reduce the distance you can see. Vehicle owners’ manuals typically offer guidance on how to adjust aim of the headlight system, or you may choose to have a qualified technician perform the service for you.
Of course, you can always do the research to find what vehicles have top rated headlights and purchase one of them. Fairly unpractical for most people.
An increasingly popular option is to replace the old technology halogen bulbs with newer LED technology. Just as LED technology has replaced so many of the lights in our homes, they have become the new standard for automotive lighting. They typically offer a much higher color temperature and will light the roadway with more of a “daylight” effect rather than dingy yellow. Just as home LED bulbs, they offer a significantly longer lifespan and require less electricity to operate. A properly designed LED headlight bulb will extend the range of your vision and not produce unwanted glare to oncoming traffic when properly aimed.