Older headlights could be dangerously dim, studies show

Posted at 10:08 AM, Dec 11, 2018

Headlight brightness is a big factor in overall automobile safety.

A report from AAA says plastic coating on headlights can become so clouded or yellowed that only 20 percent of the light is being let off. That puts drivers at risk for crashes.

The information is similar to that released last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which began incorporating headlight ratings in its overall crash ratings in 2017.

Mechanics suggest replacing old halogen bulbs with LED lights. On average, halogen lights only allow the driver to see about 50 yards in front of them, but with LED lights, a driver can see twice as far.

The lights are also said to last longer. 

LED lights cost anywhere from $70 dollars to $150 dollars. Mechanic Dave Guthrie said in a 2017 interview that LEDs don’t take that long to install.

“Typically, it only takes as long as an average headlight bulb replacement," he said.

Except for about 5 percent of vehicles, LED lights fit in all cars and SUVs. If you’re not sure they will fit in your car, Guthrie suggests calling a mechanic to find out. 

When it comes to safety, Guthrie says to never neglect the little things.

“The amount of light you can actually see and the distance you can actually see and manage and make decisions is ultimately making you safer on the road," he said.

Consumer Reports says drivers going 60 miles per hour need 300-350 feet at minimum to see and react (brake) for something in front of their vehicle. 

Consumer Reports did testsand found new-car headlights reach about 300 feet ahead on average. If illumination drops to just 20 percent, a driver may only see about 60 feet in front of the vehicle.