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Say Goodbye To Headlight Glare From Oncoming Traffic – Here’s Who Finally Solved The Problem

Automakers are dropping headlights with excessive glare. Here’s how the carrot approached worked.
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Because IIHS is now only awarding the top score to vehicles that do not blind oncoming traffic, automakers have finally stopped making headlights they know do so.

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) is a privately-funded auto safety testing organization most experts agree is the best in the business. If the term “Top Safety Pick” is familiar to you, it is because of the automakers who covet this award and try hard to manufacture safer vehicles that can earn it. Safety sells, and the Top Safety Pick and newer Top Safety Pick Plus awards give automakers a tangible way to claim their vehicles are safe. They proudly use the award in their press kits and vehicle promotions.

IIHS was the first testing agency in the United States to build a dedicated test facility to evaluate headlights and the first to establish benchmarks for headlight effectiveness. Included in that evaluation is excessive glare. If an otherwise effective headlight blinds oncoming traffic, its score can go from “Good” to “Poor.”

The group has been slowly adding in ever-tougher headlight standards to its testing. Automakers have responded, and most were able to score well with one or more of their pricier trims. However, many base models had headlights that were less effective. The converse was also true. Mazda and VW both had headlights that scored better in more affordable trims. For 2021, to earn the top award, an automaker must have highly-headlights on ALL trims to qualify for the Top Safety Pick Plus award.

This carrot has had a definite impact on how automakers equip their vehicles. For 2021, a long list of automakers dropped the lousy headlights in their trim lineups. And it wasn’t a lack of brightness that caused them to have low scores. Rather, in many cases, the headlights were earning low scores due to excessive glare.

Torque News compared the 2020 model year ratings for many of the safer vehicles on IIHS’s lists to the new 2021 ratings. What we found is that the following models all known to cause excessive glare in 2020. But for 2021, they have stopped using those headlights and now only provide ones that illuminate the road ahead effectively but don’t blind oncoming traffic.

Included were the following models:
Audi A7 Prestige Trim
Mazda CX-30 Premium Trim
Subaru Ascent Base and Premium Trims
Toyota Highlander – 5 Trims including the popular XLE value trim
Volvo XC40 Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription trims

Yes, even the Volvo, the “safety brand,” was shipping cars with headlights that had excessive glare that could blind oncoming traffic.

We expect this trend will continue and spread throughout the industry. Automakers value high safety scores from IIHS and will adapt to the new standards. It will take some time for the models already on the road to live out their lives. However, going forward, more and more new vehicles will have proper headlights that won’t blind oncoming drivers because IIHS stepped up and found a way to incentivize safety. Best of all, the American taxpayer didn’t foot the bill, and Congress didn’t have to lift a finger to make this happen.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


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Comments

While this is a good move, the US is has been hindered by poor headlight standards since the 1950's. The European headlight standards are far better than ours with much brighter but better technology. Since the US can't have high and low beams at the same time, we can't get good matrix LED lights in the US and our high beams are much dimmer than our European spec headlights. The US needs to adopt the ECE lights just like Canada does, and that will improve headlight performance for all trim levels.
I would also like to see limits on low-beam whiteness. High beams can be flood light bright and white, but low beams should be yellowish, closer to incandescent.
Do these standards apply to pickup trucks? Because those are the biggest offenders.
Excellent question! Yes the same criteria for headlights do apply to all passenger vehicles tested by IIHS. For example, the current Ram 1500's IIHS test includes the comment, "The low beams never exceeded glare limits." Thanks for your comment. I feel it helped the story.
Now I wish they would also include rear facing fog lights as well. It’s nice to find a driver of a usually German made car that knows how to use it when you are peering through the murk.
I've been complaining to my legislatures for years about this. They thought I was nuts. It seems the brighter the better was the norm. Driving at night is difficult when the oncoming headlamps are like looking at an arc welder. Then, so many have their fog lamps on too making it more hazardous. Either I need to wear sunglasses at night or darn near close my eyes when they come up. And, if it's raining the glare is twice as bad. Just too bad it will take too long for this to rectify itself.
This is the first positive development I’ve read on this issue. Thank goodness! The rush to sell the new LEDs pushed unshielded and too white lights on the world...now that the technology is improving, its slowly able to conform to eye needs. Same issues for exterior house lights...should be shielded down, preferably amber color.
Who regulates the height limit(if such thing exists) of those "super lifted"(nonsens ) trucks and jeeps, that blinds you from opposite way or from behind (in the rear view mirror)? And those "wannabe cool" LED bars and bulbs that basically are only for offroad use? Nah..... nobody cares, it's a WILD WEST when it comes to vehicle lights, and nobody cares, besides the ones blinded by oncoming traffic!
Who regulates the height limit(if such thing exists) of those "super lifted"(nonsens ) trucks and jeeps, that blinds you from opposite way or from behind (in the rear view mirror)? And those "wannabe cool" LED bars and bulbs that basically are only for offroad use? Nah..... nobody cares, it's a WILD WEST when it comes to vehicle lights, and nobody cares, besides the ones blinded by oncoming traffic!