Headlights are key to a safe driving experience. They’re also one of the first safety additions to cars. Being able to see while driving in the dark is always a plus. But one problem with headlights comes when a driver who doesn’t know proper driving etiquette blinds you. In some places, the law states you must turn off your high-beams when approaching another car.
Aside from high-beams, some new cars’ regular headlights are blindingly bright. In response to a recent Twitter post from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, one user recently echoed many drivers’ complaints: “Do cars really need to blind other drivers and signal passing ships on the opposite coast? Asking for a friend.”
If you have a hard time seeing at night while driving or are tired of blinding headlights, read on.
It’s a question of safety
Why is it important to have sufficiently bright headlights? Well, being able to see in the dark turns out to be a significant factor in not hitting trees, animals, people, and other cars.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts evaluations of headlights because it found a wide variation in vehicles’ effectiveness in lighting the road. Though some headlights are too dim, others are too bright.
A recent article the IIHS published says the institute’s “engineers deduct points for headlights that produce glare that can momentarily blind oncoming drivers.” And USA Today reported, “IIHS testers have said that automakers were often guilty of installing headlights that were aimed at oncoming drivers … while others created too much glare … In some cases, designers compromised on headlight performance for the sake of a slick look.”
Oddly, federal regulations don’t consider how headlights perform on the road. The IIHS is a nonprofit organization funded by insurance companies.
Vehicles with bright — but not blinding — headlights
The IIHS, which was established in 1959, began rating headlights in 2016. That year, only one headlight system out of 80 received a good rating. Last year, the IIHS created more stringent criteria for its Top Safety Pick+ award. Now, vehicles qualify for the top award only “if they come equipped with good or acceptable headlights across all trims,” the IIHS stated. And multiple 2020 vehicles didn’t make the cut.
However, the following six 2020 models offer bright headlights, according to the IIHS. They feature LED projector lights for low-beams and high-beams. And they provide high-beam assist. Three models also boast curve-adaptive lights, which focus on the direction of travel.
- Hyundai Genesis G70: This is one of the three models with curve-adaptive headlights. Both low-beams and high-beams offer good visibility on straightaways and curves, and the low-beams don’t exceed glare limits.
- Honda Insight: Visibility on the straightaway is good on the right side for both low- and high-beams and fair on the left side. On curves, the low-beams are good on gradual and sharp right turns and inadequate and fair, respectively, for the left side. High-beams are good on the gradual right turns, fair on sharp right and gradual left turns, and inadequate on sharp left turns. The low-beams don’t exceed glare limits.
- Hyundai Nexo: Visibility on the straightaway is good for both sides of the road. On curves, the low-beams are good for gradual turns and fair for sharp turns. The high-beams are fair on gradual turns and inadequate on sharp turns. The low-beams don’t exceed glare limits.
- Lexus NX: This is another model with curve-adaptive headlights. Visibility on the straightaway is good on both sides of the road for low-beams and good on the right and fair on the left for high-beams. On curves, the low-beams are good on right turns and sharp left turns; they’re fair on gradual left turns. The high-beams are good on all four turns. However, the NX’s low-beams create some glare.
- Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid: Here’s the third model with curve-adaptive headlights. Visibility on straightaways is good on both sides of the road for high-beams and fair for low-beams. On curves, the Crosstrek Hybrid’s low-beams are good on both right turns and inadequate on both left turns. The high-beams are good for both right turns and fair for both left turns. Plus, the low-beams didn’t exceed glare limits.
- Tesla Model 3: This EV’s visibility on the straightaway is good for both sides of the road. On curves, the low-beams are good on sharp right turns, fair on gradual right and sharp left turns, and inadequate on gradual left turns. The high-beams are good on both right turns and gradual left turns; they’re fair on sharp left turns. The low-beams don’t exceed glare limits.
LED vs. halogen: Which is brighter?
Halogen lights have been the standard for headlights. They’re cheap, easy to make, readily available, and effective. They’re dimmer than LEDs and offer a softer glow. But LED lights are becoming more popular because they last longer — sometimes as much as 100 times longer — than traditional bulbs. They’re also relatively cheap and easy to make. However, they’re incredibly bright and can be blinding if they’re not directed properly.
Having a well-lit road is crucial to avoiding nighttime crashes. And though it might be tempting to try to blind other drivers whose headlights are too bright, it’s not safe in practice.