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Test results show most headlights not bright enough to prevent crashes

Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 30, 2016

MORRISON, Colo. —  A new study shows most Americans are in the dark when it comes to headlights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says most are not bright enough to stop drivers from crashing.

Out of the 31 cars tested by the IIHS, the Toyota Prius v with LED lights and high-beam assist was the only one that earned a "good" rating.

Vehicles that performed at an "acceptable" level include Audi A3, Honda Accord 4-door, Infiniti Q50, Lexus ES, Lexus IS, Mazda 6, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Outback (built after Nov. 2015), Volkswagen CC, Volkswagen Jetta and Volvo S60.

The cars that received the "marginal" rating include Acura TLX, Audi A4, BMW 2 series, BMW 3 series, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry.

The "poor" category included the Buick Verano, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Malibu Limited (fleet model), Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mercedes-Benz C Class, Mercedes-Benz CLA, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat.

"Now that this story, this study, has been released, people may say, 'Well, the reason I got into a crash, the reason I had an incident, was because the light was insufficient," said Mark Stolberg, the Vice President of Training at MasterDrive. "What they are going to be missing out there is their responsibility as a driver is to safely operate the vehicle and to adapt to the conditions — period."

One of the cars that performed poorly has low beams that only reach 130 feet, meaning the driver would have to be going 35 miles per hour — or slower — to stop in time.

Stolberg says headlight covers suffer significant wear and tear, so polishing should be part of a yearly tune-up.

He also advises driving with high beams on, when legal, looking for reflectors on the roads, and driving near other cars at night.

This research comes as the government prepares to update its decades-old car assessment program. The changes are intended to avoid crashes and will begin with new safety ratings for 2019 model years.