Road Seems Dark to You? New Tests Blame Your Headlights

Of the dozens of vehicles — small S.U.V.s and midsize cars — whose headlights the insurance institute has tested this year, only one has been rated “good.” That was a 2016 Toyota Prius V. The best any others could muster was merely “acceptable,’’ and many fared much worse.

There’s at least one reason for the shortcomings. The federal standard for headlights became effective in 1968. Some revisions have been made, but the actual testing procedure has not changed much.

And despite decades of improvement in lighting technology since then, the government still tests headlamps only in a laboratory setting, not in actual cars on dark, winding roads. Nor does the federal standard specify how far the headlights must illuminate the path ahead.

The auto industry’s chief regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has the power to update headlight standards. But changing a standard is a cumbersome process that can take years. Four years ago this month, the agency announced it was seeking public comment on changes to the headlight regulation. In a statement, the agency indicated it was at work on updating the headlight rules, without specifying a timetable.

Starting next January, a vehicle that doesn’t get an “acceptable’’ or “good’’ headlight rating will not be eligible for the group’s coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation, a key selling point in some automakers’ ad campaigns.

But until there are changes, the insurance group offers drivers of most cars what might seem an obvious tip: Use the high beams as often as possible.

For more information and to read the entire New York Times article, follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/automobiles/road-seems-dark-to-you-new-tests-blame-your-headlights.html?ref=automobiles&_r=0

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