Can’t See at Night? It’s the Head­lights

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - AUTOMOTIVE - By Ch­eryl Jensen Mo­tor Mat­ters

ost driv­ers don't give a sec­ond thought to our head­lights and just as­sume they are all pretty much alike. But if you find it dif­fi­cult to see at night, then it could be you are tak­ing the head­lights for granted.

The In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety has con­ducted its first head­light test. The or­ga­ni­za­tion, funded by the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, called the re­sults "dis­mal."

That is be­cause, out of 31 mid­size cars in this first test­ing round, only the Toy­ota Prius v is avail­able with a head­light sys­tem that earned the high­est rat­ing of Good. The best avail­able head­lights on 11 cars earned an Ac­cept­able, nine earned a Mar­ginal rat­ing and 10 of the ve­hi­cles tested have head­lights with the low­est rat­ing of Poor.

Be­cause ve­hi­cles come with trim lev­els that come with dif­fer­ent head­light sys­tems, there are a to­tal of 82 head­light rat­ings for the 31 2016 mod­els.

Although the Prius v earned the Good rat­ing for its LED lights and high-beam as­sist, which senses the pres­ence of an on­com­ing ve­hi­cle and au­to­mat­i­cally switches be­tween high and low beams, the reg­u­lar halo­gen lights with­out high-beam as­sist earned a Poor rat­ing.

And don't as­sume that more ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles have the best head­lights, since many head­light sys­tems rated Poor come on lux­ury mod­els. The BMW 3 Se­ries with halo­gen lights, for ex­am­ple, had the low­est-scor­ing head­lights. Its sys­tem with LED curve-adap­tive lights with high­beam as­sist, got a Mar­ginal rat­ing. No BMW can be bought with a bet­ter-rated sys­tem.

The in­sur­ance in­sti­tute noted that gov­ern­ment stan­dards for head­lights, which are based on lab­o­ra­tory tests, al­low for a huge vari­a­tion in how much il­lu­mi­na­tion they emit in on-theroad driv­ing. Be­cause about half of traf­fic deaths oc­cur ei­ther at dusk, dark or dawn, bet­ter head­lights could help re­duce fa­tal­i­ties, the in­sur­ance in­sti­tute noted.

The in­sti­tute de­vel­oped the new tests be­cause of changes in tech­nol­ogy. High-in­ten­sity dis­charge (HID) or LED lamps have re­placed halo­gen in many ve­hi­cles; curve-adap­tive head­lights are be­com­ing more com­mon and re­search shows they are im­prov­ing vis­i­bil­ity and re­duc­ing crashes.

How­ever, those fea­tures don't nec­es­sar­ily guar­an­tee good head­light per­for­mance. The sys­tems on the Cadil­lac ATS, Kia Op­tima and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all earned Poor rat­ings, even though they had curve-adap­tive low and high beams.

Engi­neers at the in­sur­ance in­sti­tute de­vel­oped a rat­ing sys­tem that doesn't fa­vor one type of tech­nol­ogy over an­other; it rates sys­tems that pro­vide am­ple il­lu­mi­na­tion with­out caus­ing ex­ces­sive glare for on­com­ing driv­ers. Glare is mea­sured from low beams to make sure it isn't ex­ces­sive. And the head­lights are tested as they are on the ve­hi­cles that came from the dealer. They didn't change the aim be­cause very few own­ers do and some man­u­fac­tur­ers ad­vise con­sumers not to.

In­sur­ance in­sti­tute engi­neers said that man­u­fac­tur­ers should pay at­ten­tion and make sure head­lights are aimed con­sis­tently and prop­erly at the fac­tory, in­stead of shift­ing the bur­den to the con­sumer.

Ve­hi­cles that can't be pur­chased with a sys­tem any bet­ter than Ac­cept­able are the Audi A3, Honda Ac­cord, In­finiti Q50, Lexus ES and IS, Mazda6, Nis­san Max­ima, Subaru Out­back (built af­ter Nov. 2015), Volk­swa­gen CC and Jetta, and Volvo S60.

Ve­hi­cles that can't be pur­chased with a sys­tem bet­ter than Mar­ginal are the Acura TLX, Audi A4, BMW 2 Se­ries and 3 Se­ries, Chrysler 200, Ford Fu­sion, Lin­coln MKZ, Subaru Legacy and Toy­ota Camry.

Those that can't be pur­chased with a sys­tem bet­ter than Poor are the Buick Ver­ano, Cadil­lac ATS, Chevro­let Mal­ibu and Mal­ibu Lim­ited (fleet model), Hyundai Sonata, Kia Op­tima, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and CLA, Nis­san Al­tima and Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat.

Keep in mind, one thing all driv­ers can do to im­prove night­time vis­i­bil­ity in any ve­hi­cle is to use the high beams when no on­com­ing traf­fic is ap­proach­ing.

Copy­right, Mo­tor Mat­ters, 2016

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.