Can Better Headlights Prevent Car Accidents?

Posted on: November 8, 2021

Before 2015, there was no standard way to evaluate vehicles’ headlights. Researchers with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) set out to change that, and the impacts of that change are remarkable.

The IIHS, a motor vehicle safety organization supported by auto insurance companies, releases annual ratings that provide safety scores based on vehicle features that prevent car accidents and keep people from harm. The Institutes awards are so influential that they seem to be the driving force behind a significant improvement in headlight safety throughout the industry.

When Were Headlights Added to the Ratings?

In 2020, the group added headlights to the list of vehicle features to assess as part of a cars overall safety rating. Since then, manufacturers have added higher rated headlights to their new vehicles, indicating that implementing the headlight-scoring system and incorporating it into the overall vehicle safety ratings have put pressure on manufacturers and resulted in safer driving.

What Did the Headlight Testing Process Involve?

The tests evaluated the headlights ability to illuminate objects in the road. Markers were placed along a test track, and researchers measured how well the headlights from different models of cars worked to make the objects visible in the dark. The tests measured how well the markers were illuminated by the headlights of a car traveling 40 to 50 miles per hour.

Based on the headlights capacity to brighten the driver’s view of the road ahead, each type that was tested was given score of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.

Do Accident Statistics Support the Claims that Better Headlights Make a Difference?

The IIHS looked at 44,000 single-vehicle accidents that occurred in dark conditions. Researchers noticed that headlights with a Good rating were involved in 19 percent fewer accidents per mile than those rated Poor. Also compared with Poor headlights, those with an Acceptable rating had 15 percent fewer accidents per mile, and those with a Marginal rating were involved in 10 percent fewer accidents per mile.

Specific types of accidents also showed improvement. For example, the study saw a 29 percent reduction in accidents that resulted in personal injury to the driver when the car had headlights that were rated Good. A Good rating was also associated with about a 25 percent reduction in both tow-away collisions and pedestrian accidents.

How Have the New Headlight Evaluations Affected Vehicle Manufacturers?

Not only has the IIHS instituted the headlight rating system, but also since 2020 it has required headlights to meet the Good or Acceptable standards to be considered for the Institutes highest award, Top Safety Pick Plus.

In response, manufacturers have made better headlights standard in their vehicle line-ups. Since the IIHS first tested headlights, those tested that earned a Good rating have gone from making up just four percent of cars in 2015 to accounting for 29 percent today.

As a result of the manufacturers adjustments, IIHS awarded its coveted Top Safety Pick Plus prize to more than twice as many cars this year.

How Do Headlights Illumination Distances Affect Driver Reaction Times?

In one of the most extreme comparison examples, the IIHS testing determined that when headlights are on a low-beam setting, headlights varied greatly with the distances they illuminated. Some headlights were able to reach 460 feet, whereas others could only reach 125 feet. That range for a driver traveling at 50 miles per hour could mean the difference of up to four seconds of reaction time. The longer-range beams allowed six seconds for the driver to brake or steer away from danger in the road ahead, whereas the shorter beam allowed only two seconds.

Since the IIHS testing began, these illumination distances have improved across the board. The average low-beam distance among all headlights involved in the tests has gone from less than 180 feet to more than 200 feet.

Still, improvements to new cars notwithstanding, the cars tested, and those manufacturers influenced by the new appreciation for the importance of improved headlights, make up only a small percentage of those on the road.

For the majority of car owners, as well as those who share the road with cars equipped with substandard headlights, nighttime driving is still very dangerous.

How Dangerous Is Nighttime Driving?

It is three times more dangerous to drive in the dark as it is to drive during the day.

Driving safely requires good visibility. On a clear day, drivers can see greater distances, but when night falls, danger comes with it.

Of course, headlights offer advantages for visibility in daytime as well, especially when weather conditions cause problems. Rain hampers visibility at all times of day, so naturally rain at night makes it more difficult for drivers to see the road ahead.

Certainly, objects in the road are not the only dangers associated with driving in the dark. Drivers must be able to see road markings and signage to avoid accidents. Headlights are essential for those purposes as well.

What More Can be Done to Improve Driving Safety with Better Headlights?

Manufacturers taking steps to improve the headlights in their cars make a big difference, but the changes are not compulsory. Seeing how much of a difference the improved headlights have made in the cars that comply with the IIHS rating requirements, authorities should feel pressure to come up with an enforceable policy that will apply to all car makers.

Middletown Car Accident Lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova Help Victims Achieve Justice after a Serious Accident

If you were injured in an accident involving a car with headlights that were missing, broken, or turned off, you may be able to hold the other driver accountable for your injuries. The Middletown car accident lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova can help you prove that the other drivers negligence caused your accident.  We can help you understand your rights and make a case for fair compensation to pay for the losses you suffered in your accident. Call us at 732-705-3363 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Hazlet and Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Ocean County, Sussex County, Neptune, Middlesex County, and Pennsylvania.