Headlights found on cars in the U.S. aren’t as good as they can be.
According to AAA, today’s headlights have significant shortcomings when traveling on roadways that do not have overheard lighting, which account for 40 percent of vehicle miles traveled annually. To assess headlight capabilities and limitations, the association compared the performance of standard halogen headlights, HIDs and LED headlights and found that halogen headlights may fail to safely illuminate roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph. That’s especially alarming considering that over 80 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roadways today have halogen headlights. As for the high-beam settings on halogen headlights, they improved sight distances by 28 percent at a testing facility, but in real-world conditions it may only provide enough light to safely stop at speeds of up to 48 mph.
HID and LED headlights illuminated dark roadways 25 percent further than halogen counterparts, but may still fail to illuminate roadways at speeds greater than 45 mph, according to AAA. High-beam settings on those headlights did provide a significant improvement, lighting distances up to 500 feet, which is equal to 55 mph. Despite those improvements, even the most advanced headlights fall 60 percent short of the sight distances that the full light of day provides.
“While it’s encouraging to see the safety benefit that newer headlight technology offers to drivers, there’s still room for improvement,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Unlike the more advanced headlight technology available in European vehicles, current government regulations limit the light output for vehicles sold in the United States. AAA looks forward to working with U.S. policy makers to ensure federal regulations keep up with changing technology.”