A vehicle’s headlights are one of its most important safety features. A good set of headlights significantly improves a driver’s ability to see and their visibility to other drivers on the road in both night and low-light driving situations. However, despite their obvious importance, not all vehicles have headlights that are up to modern safety standards.

Illumination Distance

One of the most important and measurable criteria of headlight effectiveness is how far in front of the vehicle the headlights illuminate. This distance is simply measured in feet. A vehicle travelling at 60 miles per hour travels roughly 88 feet per second. Headlights that illuminated only 88 feet of pavement would only allow a driver to see one second ahead. Greater illumination distance gives drivers more time to react to hazards or other vehicles on the road in front of them.

IIHS Headlight Study

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluated 37 separate SUV models, rating them on their headlight effectiveness. While the results were better than those found by a similar study conducted last year, only two of the vehicles tested exceeded the IIHS’s safety standards. Both the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2017 Volvo XC60 received the highest rating. Twelve models were dubbed “acceptable,” a separate 12 were rated “marginal” and 11 models received the lowest rating of “poor.” The Kia Sorento only illuminated 148 feet of road, offering drivers less than two seconds of visibility.In addition to poor illumination, many of the reviewed models produced a large amount of glare. Glare doesn’t affect the visibility of the driver in the vehicle, but instead the visibility of oncoming drivers. Excessive glare from oncoming headlights can temporarily blind a driver, making collisions much more likely.

Hyundai Headlight Technology

Rated in the top two of the IIHS study, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe uses high-intensity discharge (HID) beams and projector lenses to better spread light from the vehicle’s headlamps. The Santa Fe also offers Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist. With Dynamic Bending Light, the SUV’s headlights pivot in their housing in the direction you turn your steering wheel, allowing drivers to better see around corners. High Beam Assist automatically dims the vehicle’s high beams for oncoming traffic, reducing glare for other drivers.

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