Report: High-quality Headlights Still Rare on Cars

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Feb. 20, 2020—Base models with headlights that earn a good rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety remain rare.

For the first time in 2020, headlights that earn at least an acceptable rating must be installed across all the variants for sale, rather than merely available as options, for a vehicle to qualify for the highest IIHS award, TOP SAFETY PICK+.

Only 6 of the 156 models that IIHS has rated so far come with good-rated headlights across the board.

When good-rated headlights have been offered as an option, manufacturers haven’t always produced vehicles equipped with them in large numbers, however.

How IIHS Tests the Headlights:

IIHS rates headlights on the distance that they illuminate the road as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. The tests evaluate both low beams and high beams. On a straightaway, good-rated low beams illuminate the right side of the road ahead to at least 325 feet. Poor ones might light up 220 feet or even less.

Engineers deduct points for headlights that produce glare that can momentarily blind oncoming drivers. Extra credit is awarded for systems that automatically switch between high beams and low beams, since research shows that most drivers don’t use their high beams enough.


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