The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been testing hundreds of sport-utility vehicles (SUV) and report that only two of the U.S. auto industry’s 37 mid-size SUVs have “good” headlight packages available. The report ranked 2017 models using the best available headlight package offered for each vehicle.
The results were not impressive as 12 vehicles were deemed to have “acceptable” headlights, 12 had only “marginal” headlights, and 11 had “poor” headlights.
The top performers were:
Hyundai Santa Fe
The bottom performers were:
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Improving headlight performances in the United States is behind European and Japanese standards. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry lobbying group, has called for updating U.S. regulations to allow for implementation of technology that is already used in other parts of the world. Adaptive beam headlights can maintain the high beam aimed at the road while reducing the light and glare towards oncoming drivers. In 2013, Japanese car company Toyota petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to allow adaptive beam technology, but the NHTSA has neither confirmed or denied it will embrace such changes.
Basic manufacturing errors are the root cause of some of the headlight performance problems. Headlights are often installed without checking for aim and direction as federal regulations do not require manufacturers to control for aim. There have been many advances in technology for cars, but headlights have not been the focus. The newest headlights are curve adaptive, allowing them to swivel with the curvature of the road, but their effectiveness varies widely among manufacturers. For instance, the Volvo XC60’s curve adaptive low-beam lights illuminated 315 feet of straightaway pavement, but the Kia Sorento achieved less than half of that at 148 feet of visibility.
This lag in technological advancement puts both drivers and pedestrians at an increased risk of accidents. Every year, pedestrian accidents account for around 2,500 fatalities, often because drivers with poor headlights were unable to see them at night. Car accidents can also be avoided if drivers are aware of oncoming obstacles.
Companies placing style over safety creates additional manufacturing issues. Sleek design is often prized and the current trend is angled towards smaller headlights with a more distinctive design. Experts say that makes it harder and more expensive to have good visibility on the roads.
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