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Study: Most car headlights need improvement

Posted at 6:21 AM, Mar 30, 2016

A new report out Wednesday reveals many of our cars need some work on their headlights.

Only one, out of 31 tested earned a good rating.

The report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that many headlights perform poorly when it comes to helping drivers see far enough down the road to help them detect hazards in time to avoid them.

Headlight designs, and often poor aiming from the factory, can make it difficult for headlights to perform their basic function. 

For one of the worst performers, a person driving a BMW 3 series with halogen lights would have to be going 35 mph or less in order to stop in time for an obstacle in the travel lane.

IIHS is launching a new ratings program, starting with 31 midsize cars, where only one vehicle, a Toyota Prius V, can be purchased with headlights that are rated good in tests.

The ability to see the road with your headlights is essential. Yet through this report researchers learned government standards allow a lot of variation among cars.

Glare was also tested. The report found that a vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can’t earn a rating above marginal because of its effects on the on coming driver.

Researchers say this study proves buying an expensive car doesn’t lead to better results.

"You don't have to pay for an expensive option to get good headlights," David Zuby, Chief Research Officer of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said. "The base model Honda Accord for example has some of the better performing headlights in the bunch.”

The best advice is to purchase a car with LED lights and with high-beam assist.

Here are the cars rated poor:

  • Buick Verano
  • Kia Optima
  • Cadillac ATS
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz CLA
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chevrolet Malibu Limited (fleet model)
  • Nissan Altima
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Volkswagen Passat