DeAnn Owens
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Good IIHS Rated Headlights Result in Fewer Crashes

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Car headlight symbols
Photo: The News Wheel

The quality of your vehicle’s headlights is vital to your safety and the safety of other drivers. If your headlights are dim, you won’t be able to see or be seen as well as you should, especially at night when driving is even more dangerous. That’s why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed a rating program that focuses on headlight performance. According to a new study, since the IIHS headlight evaluations started five years ago, nighttime crashes are decreasing.

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“Driving at night is 3 times as risky as driving during the day,” says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow, who conducted the study. “This is the first study to document how much headlights that provide better illumination can help.”

The IIHS evaluates headlights and assigns one of four ratings — good, acceptable, marginal, and poor — after the testing is done. According to the IIHS, a vehicle equipped with headlights that have earned a good rating compared to a vehicle with poor-rated headlights has a 20 percent lower rate of crashes at night.

“For vehicles with acceptable or marginal headlights, crash rates are 15 percent and 10 percent lower than for those with poor ratings,” according to the IIHS.

Nearly 1,000 different headlight systems have been rated by the IIHS.

 “Until 2016, when IIHS launched its headlight ratings program, neither drivers nor researchers had any real way to compare how well different headlights lit up the roadway. The illumination provided by different headlights in real-world conditions varied greatly, but the outdated federal standard effectively branded them all equal,” according to the IIHS.

In addition to headlight evaluations, the IIHS puts vehicles through six crash tests to determine if a vehicle is worthy of a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ rating.

 “Our awards have been a huge motivator for automakers to improve their headlights,” Brumbelow says. “Now, with our new study, we have confirmation that these improvements are saving lives.”