Today, more cars are coming with sophisticated high-tech collision avoidance systems that are supposed to make the vehicle safer, but some car makers seem to be neglecting headlights. Headlight performance is critical because about half of traffic deaths occur at night or during the low light hours around dusk and dawn. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, headlights are often overlooked in favor of “jazzier high-tech crash avoidance features”.
The institute tested the headlights on 21 small SUVs and found that none of them was able to earn the top rating for good light performance. Luxury cars didn’t do that well either, with their lights rated no better than mainstream less expensive cars. According to the institute, even adaptive headlight that turn along with the front wheels didn’t guarantee better performance.
This is not to say that all small SUVs have under performing headlights, there are a few that did better. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-3 Hyundai Tucson and the Ford 2017 Escape all had acceptable headlight performance.
In some models, such as the Hyundai Tucson, the acceptable rating only applied to the limited version of the model. Other versions of that same model had headlights that were rated poor. Some of the models that were rated as poor don’t even have other versions.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, makers of Fiat and Jeep, Nissan and Honda defended their vehicles pointing out that their headlights meet or exceed all applicable safety standards. General Motors and Kia chose not to comment.
The institute used a test track to evaluate headlight performance on straightaways as well as left and right-hand curves. Some of the criteria included how far lights traveled and whether oncoming vehicles experienced excessive glare.
Hopefully these results will prompt automakers to pay a little more attention to basic safety features like headlights when designing future models. The new collision avoidance systems are a great thing but driving in the hours of darkness will always present challenges that can overcome with better illumination.