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That's a Bright Idea: New IIHS Report Examines Headlight Adequacy

Most prospective car buyers put a premium on safety, meaning they want their car, truck or SUV equipped with a full complement of safety features including comprehensive airbag coverage, braking assist technology, vehicle skid control and other computerized systems designed to protect occupants. Interestingly enough, however, there is another safety feature that experts say prospective car buyers should consider: headlights.

Indeed, while most people think that all headlights are essentially the same, the standards set by the federal government actually permit significant variation regarding the amount of illumination provided in real world driving. Furthermore, automakers offer multiple options for consumers, including everything from standard headlights and LED headlights to high-intensity discharge headlight and those that actually swivel in time with the steering (i.e., curve-adaptive technology).

Consider also that statistics show that almost half of all traffic fatalities occur at dawn or dusk, or during the nighttime hours, suggesting that motorists are often unable to see the pedestrians, bicyclists, road obstacles and/or motorists with which they collide until it’s too late.

Interestingly enough, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently completed its first-ever rating of vehicle headlights, providing 82 separate ratings for 31 different vehicle models based on the various headlights options available for each.

While a complete breakdown of the IIHS’ study methods and ratings is beyond the scope of a single blog post, some of the more notable findings include:

  • Only one model — the Toyota Prius v- earned a “good” rating. However, this was only when it was outfitted with high-beam assist technology and LED lights via its advanced technology package.
    11 models earned an “acceptable” rating, nine models earned a “marginal” rating, and ten models earned a “poor” rating.
  • Those models equipped with the most up-to-date technology like LED lights and curve-adaptive technology didn’t necessarily earn the highest marks.
  • Multiple models classified as luxury vehicles earned the lowest ratings.
  • Whether automakers decide to start paying closer attention to this issue remains to be seen. However, prospective car buyers may want to look these ratings over before heading out to their local dealership.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident caused by reckless motorist, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options for holding them accountable.