ARLINGTON, Va. (April 5, 2016) — The Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a "good" rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) first-ever headlight ratings.
The best available headlights on 11 cars earn an acceptable rating, according to the IIHS, while nine only reach a marginal rating — and 10 of the vehicles can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.
The Arlington-based institute's evaluation also found that a vehicle's price tag is no guarantee of decent headlights, with many of the poor-rated headlights belonging to luxury vehicles.
“If you're having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.
The ability to see the road ahead — along with any pedestrians, bicyclists or obstacles — is obviously essential for drivers, the IIHS said. “However, government standards for headlights, based on laboratory tests, allow huge variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in actual on-road driving.
“With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities.”
The institute said that recent advances in headlight technology make it a good time to focus on the issue. In many vehicles, high-intensity discharge (HID) or LED lamps have replaced halogen ones. Curve-adaptive headlights, which swivel according to steering input, are also becoming more widespread.
Research has shown advantages for the new headlight types, but they don't guarantee good performance. The institute's headlight rating system doesn't favor one lighting technology over the other, but “simply rewards systems that produce ample illumination without excessive glare for drivers of oncoming vehicles,” it explained.
Headlights are evaluated on the track after dark at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. A special device measures the light from both low beams and high beams as a vehicle is driven on five different approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.