Are Your Vehicle’s Headlights Endangering You?

Of all the equipment that comes with your car, we’ll bet that you rarely think about your headlights, unless one of them burns out. But without your headlights, you can’t drive a significant portion of the time. Headlights are necessary in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours, as well as during storms and fog.

Headlights are basic equipment that has been installed on cars in one form or another since the early days of the 20th century. But headlights that don’t shine brightly enough, or that don’t properly illuminate the road, create an obvious danger to you and to others. Surprisingly enough, a number of models of automotive headlights are rated poorly, translating into bad visibility that makes accidents more likely.

Facts about Headlights

Headlights started out as “headlamps” that used oil or acetylene as fuel, late in the 1880s. In 1898, electric headlamps were introduced with the Columbia Electric Car, becoming standard equipment on vehicles a mere 10 years later.

These days, three different light sources are generally used for automotive headlights: LED (light-emitting diode), HID (high-intensity discharge), and halogen. Any of these light sources can be combined with either reflectors or projector lenses to improve output. Reflectors bounce the light output forward, while projectors have a lens that disperses the light.

Headlight Ratings from the IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reviewed the effectiveness of the headlights on numerous vehicle makes and models, with some distressing results released during 2017. Among midsized SUVs, over half of the headlights tested as “marginal” or “poor” in their effectiveness. The details are as follows:

  • The only midsized SUV makes and models with headlights rated “good” were the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2017 Volvo XC60.
  • The headlights on 12 midsized SUVs were rated “acceptable.”
  • The headlights on 23 midsized SUVs were rated “marginal” or “poor.”

All of the headlights which were rated either good or acceptable have projector lenses, and three of those with good ratings use the HID light source. However, it is not possible to say that all HID headlights or all projector lenses guarantee good lighting on the road.

In other IIHS tests, two-thirds of the headlights available on small SUVs produced poor results in testing, for a total of 21 models. Some of the vehicles in this group were the Nissan Rogue, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and the Jeep Wrangler. The headlight systems for 10 midsized cars tested as poor, including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Buick Verano, and the Hyundai Sonata. When it came to headlights on pickup trucks, testing poorly were the GMC Canyon, Toyota Tundra, and Ford F-150.

The End Results of Poor Headlights

Every year, approximately 2,500 pedestrians are killed at night while attempting to cross the road. Locally, on White Horse Road in Greenville, there have been numerous problems for pedestrians. It’s likely that one of the most common reasons that nighttime pedestrians are struck is because drivers cannot see them. Poorly-designed headlights would certainly increase the risks for everyone involved.

However, not many folks think about their headlights when an accident occurs. A senior research engineer and headlights expert at IIHS, Matthew Brumbelow, commented, “Nobody who hits the deer thinks my headlights are bad. They don’t realize actually if you had better headlights you might have seen it in time and avoided the crash.”

In Europe and Japan, adaptive-beam headlights, which reduce glare because they automatically adjust to oncoming vehicles’ headlights, are used. In the U.S., federal rules block their use. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering suggestions to change the rules so that adaptive-beam headlights can be made legal, improving safety for everyone.

Listening hard. Working harder.

The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the personalized attention you deserve. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an auto accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. Defective auto parts cases require a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine which individuals and companies should be named as defendants and which legal theories should be pursued. South Carolina law can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. As the initial consultation is always free, reach out to us today by calling us at 1-803-454-1200, or by filling out our online contact form.