Most U.S. car headlights inadequate, insurance group's ratings find

Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:07am EDT
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Headlights on a third of U.S. midsize car models do a poor job, and only one, the Toyota Prius v, performed well enough with an optional upgrade to earn a good rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in results released on Wednesday.

While they currently meet U.S. government standards, better headlights could reduce U.S. accident deaths and improve safety, the Arlington, Virginia-based group said.

In its first ratings of vehicle headlights, the insurance group tested midsize cars to see how well they illuminate the road and whether they create excessive glare for oncoming vehicles. The group's ratings carry weight with consumers so automakers work to win high marks in its tests.

Government rules allow for significant variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in actual on-road driving, IIHS said.

Of 31 midsize models it tested, 11 earned an acceptable rating, nine were rated marginal and 10 were poor. The Prius v was rated good when equipped with optional LED headlights and a feature that turns off high beams when there is an oncoming car.

Vehicles getting acceptable ratings include the Audi A3, Honda Accord and Nissan Maxima. Vehicles with poor ratings include the Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat.

Many luxury vehicles have poor-rated headlights, and many cars only get higher ratings with option packages. For example, the base Prius v, which has halogen lights, gets a poor rating.

Some headlights are inadequate because they are not aimed properly at the factory. "Many headlight problems could be fixed with better aim," said IIHS engineer Matthew Brumbelow.   Continued...

Chevrolet's Malibu is seen during a presentation at an event ahead of the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai, April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song