Improved headlight technology helping keep drivers safer on the road

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Headlights are considered one of the most important safety features on your car, and this model year, they are being improved by automakers. 

In 2021, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says more car models than ever will be sold with top-grade headlights as standard features. 

There was a time when if you wanted headlights that helped you see as clearly as possible, you needed to shell out big bucks for top-of-the-line headlights.

They were only available as an extra feature on the most expensive models. 

Now, more automakers are now seeing the light, realizing better vision at night shouldn’t have to depend on your bank account. 

Driving at night can be one of the most dangerous times to be on the road. 

When you look at traffic fatalities in the U.S., the National Safety Council says almost 50 percent of those occur when it’s dark and almost a quarter of those crashes occur on unlit roadways.

“Headlights are a critical safety feature, that’s why we started rating them 5 years ago,” said IIHS President David Harkey. 

The ratings involve a series of tests looking at the so-called throw of a headlight, as well as how well they work on curves. The institute also looks at a new technology called  high beam assist. 

“We know that drivers do not use their high beams enough,” Harkey. “This feature allows it to happen automatically for them.” 

High beam assist literally activates high beams on dark, empty roads and shuts them off when another car approaches. 

“It is a really good safety feature,” said Harkey. 

Automakers are also phasing out older technology that utilized Halogen headlamps and replacing them with LED’s that can illuminate roadways an additional 100 feet. 

That headlight improvement has resulted in scores of cars now being awarded the institute’s highest safety ratings, but, there’s still a ways to go because outdated government regulations won’t allow for some headlight innovations.

Harkey said one of the biggest innovations is called matrix beam technology.

It’s essentially is a headlight system that has the feasibility to turn on and off several LEDs in such a way that it can light up a roadway where you need the light most often while preventing glare from oncoming vehicles. 

Getting the U.S. government to change headlight regulations is a slow process, but the institute said it needs to happen because headlight innovations currently allowed in Europe and Canada have proved they are good for drivers.  

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