Headlamps on new vehicles are often poorly aimed, according to the independent, nonprofit US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)—and that means glare on the roads.
Today's headlamps put out more light than older designs, but IIHS say that doesn't necessarily mean they're good; over the past two years, IIHS have found that most of the new vehicles they test have headlamps that are not good enough.
Recent car shows reveal that automakers and suppliers are enjoying a golden era of vehicle lighting. Headlamps have become works of art, new light sources and manufacturing capabilities mean greater design freedom and bigger output from smaller lamps. Nevertheless, IIHS say, poorly-aimed lamps cause glare and nullify technical benefits of advanced lighting systems. Specifically, only four models out of 100 received a "good" ranking for their headlamps, while forty models—ten times as many—received a "poor" grade. As reported in DVN, last summer's IIHS tests found that 23 of 37 midsize SUVs tested had headlamps that only managed a "marginal" or "poor" grade. Just 15 models qualified for the insurance institute's 2018 Top Safety Pick Plus award, down from 38 in 2017, due largely to the new prerequisite of a "good" headlamp rating.
IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow says the widespread low scores are concerning. Almost half of the nation's fatal traffic accidents occur at night, he said, even though less than half of all driving occurs at night. He calls headlamps one of the primary tools for preventing collisions: A headlamp, he says, is "very basic equipment, but you can think of it as crash avoidance, like automatic braking equipment," Brumbelow said. "This test is a big one with a range of performance."