Unsafe SUV Headlights
July 23, 2017
Headlights continue to become sleeker and flashy, however advances in aesthetic and design do not correlate to increased safety. Safety advocates are coming forward to warn the public that newer models of SUVs are equipped with dim headlights, incorrectly aimed beams, and cause excessive glare, endangering motorists and pedestrians.
A new study has been published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regarding headlight safety. IIHS tested hundreds of sport utility vehicles and ranked 2017 models based on the best-available headlight package offered for each vehicle. The industry group found that 11 models offered “poor” headlights, 12 were “marginal,” and 12 were “acceptable.” IIHS reports that of the auto industry’s 37 mid-size SUVs, only two offer headlights that rank “good.” The small SUVs did not fare any better. Twelve of the 21 models tested performed poorly, and only four were acceptable.
The models that ranked the highest were the Volvo XC60 and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Those that performed poorly included popular models, such as the Infiniti QX60, the Lincoln MKC and MKX, the Jeep Wrangler, Kia Sorento, Toyota 4Runner, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and Ford Explorer.
Manufacturers at Fault for Improper Installation
Issues regarding the SUV headlights prove that manufacturers do a poor job of aiming the headlights in the right direction when they are installed. Consumers often purchase new vehicles and have no idea that the headlights have been installed incorrectly, and do not complain about the performance because they have nothing to compare it to. Federal regulations do not currently require aim of headlamps to be controlled or checked in any way before a car hits the showroom floor.
Optional technology offered by automakers included curve-adaptive headlights. However, IIHS found that these did not necessarily perform any better than traditional stationary lights. Despite the poor ratings of many vehicles, an IIHS senior research engineer has stated that manufacturers are responding to the findings and making improvements. A lobbyist group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has long advocated for technology that is widely used in Japan and Europe to be allowed in the U.S. The technology dims light aimed at oncoming motorists while keeping high beams on the road for visibility. These types of headlights are known as adaptive beam headlights, and the Alliance claims that it could improve safety for all motorists on the road.
Years ago, Toyota petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to allow the use of this technology in cars sold in America, but the NHTSA has not yet required the upgrade.
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