Drive on an unlit road during the night and you are putting yourself in a unique danger zone.
About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
That’s why the institute adopted headlight ratings in 2016. Since then, automakers have responded to the goal of making good-functioning headlights standard equipment. In previous years, automakers offered superior headlights but usually as an option.
IIHS rates headlights on the distance their low beams and high beams illuminate on straight and curved roads, IIHS reports. On a straight road, safe low beams light up the right side of the road to at least 325 feet. Poor headlights shine 220 feet or less.
IIHS deducts safety points for headlights that produce glare so strong that it momentarily blinds oncoming drivers.
Automakers get extra credit for high-beam assist. This is an automatic device that automatically switches between high and low beams. Research show that drivers don’t use high beams enough.
In 2016, when the initiative was introduced, only two of the 95 IIHS tested models earned a good rating for headlights. For model year 2020, 85 out of the 185 models tested had good-rated headlights. In eight of the models, the safe headlights were standard. In 42 of the models, headlights were rated good to acceptable.
For 2021 at least 10 automakers improved their headlight offering by eliminating or modifying interior choices. Since 2020, vehicles have only been able to qualify for the highest Institute awards if they come equipped with good or acceptable rated headlight for all models.
What are those headlights that blind?
It’s a dark winter night when you come head on with a space ship, glaring spotlights into your eyes, blinding you before they beam you up.
Oh, wait. That’s not a space ship. It’s some motorist who wanted to see better — much better — on the road and purchased some nifty LED bulbs.
Great for that person. Bad for everyone else on the road, including the driver ahead of him.
Those broad spectrum LED lights are supposed to be sold only for off-road use, and many stores provide that warning. And many, especially online retailers, don’t, according to arstechnica.com.
Standard halogen lights deliver a 360 degree illumination, but LED light shine in a straight 180 degree plane.
The worst part is when the LED lights are not aligned properly. Then the direct blast of light blinds the driver behind the LED-equipped vehicle, as well as the oncoming driver. In a truck that looms higher on the road, it is a stab in the eyes.