Lack of Quality Headlights a Glaring Concern for SUV Owners

June 19, 2017 by Sean Jackson

SUVs have many benefits that make them appealing options. However, based on the latest research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it seems many manufacturers overlooked a key component of their SUV’s safety: their headlights. The IIHS tested headlights on 37 models, then assigned each SUV a grade based on its findings. Those conclusions are causing some concern, as only two models earned good reviews. The Volvo XC60 received the highest rating. With its headlights, you can identify people 100 feet away and deer up to 200 feet away. This distance provides you enough reaction time to reduce an accident from occurring. The other model earning a good score is the Hyundai Santa Fe. The Santa Fe comes with curve-adapted lights, which enhances visibility. On the other end of the spectrum is the Kia Sorento. The Sorento earned the dubious distinction of having the worst performing headlights. Matthew Brumbelow, a senior research engineer told CBS News, “So when I say the Kia Sorento, 35 miles an hour is really about the fastest you should be driving with your low beams on.” That’s insane when you think about it. The poor lighting from the Sorento, coupled with fast speeds mean you won’t have much reaction time if you spot an obstacle on the road. The less reaction time you have the more it increases your risk of being in an accident. Of course, SUVs haven’t the only segment that has performed poorly. The IIHS has found the majority of pick-up trucks and sedans are in the same boat. While headlights for each SUV performed at the federal guidelines, the fact there were 11 models which earned poor scores—when equipped with their best headlight systems-- indicate there’s much work to do to improve this aspect of a vehicle’s safety.

Headlight Safety Tips

The new developments, while concerning, also shine a light on how important headlight safety is. With this in mind, here are some headlight safety tips to assist you:

Night Driving

Night driving can be dangerous. The darker conditions take time for your eyes to become acclimated; your visibility reduces, and more obstacles can be on the road by way of night drivers and animals. To ensure you should be driving at night, the first tip is to receive vision checkups regularly. If you require glasses, try to find ones with an anti-glare lens. This helps you to avoid straining your eyes when in traffic. Moreover, if you have vision impairments which prevent you from reading signs or spotting objects far or near during night driving, then find an alternative such as having a friend drive or use a ride-sharing application. If you require glasses, try to find ones with anti-glare lens. This helps you to avoid straining your eyes when in traffic. Moreover, if you have vision impairments which prevent you from reading signs or spotting objects far or near during night driving, then find an alternative such as having a friend drive or use a ride-sharing application.

Vision Obstacles

There’s nothing worse than driving at night with a dirty windshield. If or when another driver approaches from the other side of the road, not only will your visibility reduce from the headlight glare, the dirt from the windshield can amplify that glare, making it more difficult to read the road conditions ahead of you. To prevent this from happening, be sure to clean your windshield regularly. Another component that can help or hinder your visibility depending on condition is the windshield wipers. Clean windshield wipers can provide better visibility in dark and wet conditions. Meanwhile, old or dirty windshield wipers won’t clean the windshield effectively, making it harder to see when you need to the most. Lastly, the interior lighting in your SUV can play tricks with your eyes. You can minimize this from messing with you by dimming the lights on your dash, according to DMV.org.

Driver Impairments

There are many things that could prevent us from paying full attention to the road. At night, fatigue can be a big issue. You’ve had a long drive; you’re getting off work after a long day or you haven’t been sleeping well. As you become drowsy, your reaction time slows down. Even worse, you could fall asleep at the wheel. The National Sleep Foundation states sleep-deprived drivers account for over 50,000 serious injuries each year. If you become drowsy when driving, here are some things you can do:
  • Ask someone else—if applicable---to drive.
  • Find a place to take a break. Step out of the car and walk around for a few minutes. Grab a cup of coffee. If these things don’t energize you, consider staying the night where you are—if traveling—or call a ride-share service to pick you up.
  • If you are doing a long drive, take a break every hour. This breaks up the trip and gives you mind a chance to wake up.
  • One other alternative is to find a safe place to park and nap.
Another way your reaction time becomes impaired is through distracted driving. It doesn’t matter how effective your SUV’s headlights are if you are devoting more of your time to your phone than the road. To keep you safe, you should put down the phone and turn off notifications which can tempt you to look at your phone. Last, but not least, is to never drive after drinking. Buzzed driving results in slower reaction times, increasing your risk of an accident. If you plan to spend an evening out drinking, designate a driver, use a ride-sharing service or have the bar call you a cab.

Our Impressions

The findings from the IIHS on headlight effectiveness can be concerning. At the same time, many SUVs come with accident-avoidance technologies which can detect obstacles in the road, alert you to them, and in some instances apply the brakes to help you stop in time. And in the case of the Kia Sorento, the SUV earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, so while the headlights need some work, it’s clear the rest of the SUV is up to par concerning safety. What all this illustrates is safety is all-encompassing. Taking care of your SUV, eliminating distractions, and practicing safe driving behaviors will go a long way to keeping you safe.

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