The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently put 31 small SUVS through their paces at night, and only one, the Toyota Prius, earned a good rating for its headlights functionality.
In an ironic twist, when it came to the vehicles that were tested, the price of the vehicle was no guarantee that the buyer would leave the new car lot with decent headlights. In fact, many of the most poorly rated headlights were found to belong to luxury vehicles.
The design of the test was straightforward and simple. Officials from the IIHS tested the vehicles on a track after dark and determined how far the headlights illuminated ahead on both straight roads and in turns.
Using a device that is able to measure both the distance and brightness of light, the vehicles were tested on five types of approach: driving straight, a sharp right curve, a sharp left curve, a gradual right curve and a gradual left curve.
Of the 31 vehicles tested, one received a good rating, eleven received an acceptable rating, nine received a marginal rating and ten received a poor rating.
Among all the vehicles tested, it was the headlights of the BMW 3 series that scored the worst. Drivers of this SUV would have to be traveling 35 mph or less in order to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting an obstruction in the road in front of them.
When walking at night, using a flashlight that allows us to see where we will be stepping, before we do so, makes good common sense.
As drivers, common sense also tells us that our ability to see what is ahead of us is critical to not only our own safety, but to the safety of others as well. It might come as quite a surprise to most of us to learn then that the government standards for headlights allow for a large degree of variation in the amount of illumination that headlights on different vehicles actually provide at night.
Although fewer of us drive at night, half of all traffic deaths occur during nighttime hours.
As stated by IIHS Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow, “Manufactures aren’t paying enough attention to the actual on-road performance of this basic equipment.”
That leaves it up to us, when we shop for a new vehicle of any type, to do our homework so we can be certain that headlights on the vehicle we purchase, can provide us with the illumination we need to be able to drive safely at night.