What kind of difference good headlights can make on nighttime driving safety


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Most are in the dark when it comes to having good headlights. A car with quality headlights can make a big difference when it comes to nighttime crashes.

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found cars with poor headlights have higher crash rates.

When you turn on the headlights in your car, they may not be as good as you think. Most people don’t drive with their high beams, instead relying on low beams for all their driving. When it comes to objects further down the road, using those low beam headlights can literally leave you in the dark.

“We have found that driving at night is three times as risky as driving during the day,” said Matt Brumbelow, who helped author the headlight study for the IIHS.

The IIHS looked at 44,000 crashes and found vehicles with headlights that received a good rating had a 20 percent lower risk of being in a crash compared to cars with headlights that had a poor rating.

There was also a 30 percent reduction in accidents where the driver was injured.

One way to cut that risk is to use high beams as often as you can, but the IIHS said only 1-in-5 drivers use them.

“High beam is vastly superior to low beam,” Brumbelow said. “The only reason to use your low beam is if you are producing glare for other drivers on the road.”

It’s up to you to make sure the car you are driving has highly rated headlights to begin with.

Federal regulations for headlights are way out of date. They were last updated in 1968.

“The headlight is rated by itself apart from the vehicle,” Brumbelow said. “It might be the headlight is designed well, but at the factory it’s put in in such a way that it doesn’t properly light up the road.”

The IIHS has been rating headlights since 2015.

“We found some vehicles provide about 6 seconds of lead time, others only provide 2 seconds,” Brumbelow said.

If you’re driving at night that can make the difference between avoiding an obstacle and a crash.

Right now, headlight quality varies greatly depending on the automaker and the options you choose.

CBS 17 asked Brunbelow why automakers can’t just put the best headlights in every model they make. He said it’s due in large part to economics.

“A lot of consumers are very budget-conscious and want the cheapest option available,” he said.

If the government changes its headlight requirements, that will also push automakers to install better headlights across all model cars.

Brumbelow said there is some movement in that direction by the feds, but it will take time.

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