Headlight Technology For Safer Night Driving

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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AAA finds headlight technology not currently allowed in the U.S. would improve nighttime driving safety

Driving at night is one of the most dangerous activities for not only those behind the wheel but for those on foot or on bike as well. More than half of driver fatalities and three-quarters of pedestrian deaths occur after dark. This is a staggering figure considering only one-quarter of driving is done at night. Headlights, one of the most critical safety components of a vehicle, do not provide an adequate amount of lighting to safely illuminate the roadway in the U.S. according to AAA. But a solution exists and is already on the road in Europe and Canada.

ADB headlights provide more light

New research from AAA found that European vehicles equipped with adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights increase roadway lighting by as much as 86 percent when compared to U.S. low beam headlights. This technology, not currently allowed by U.S. standards, could be the first real step to providing more light for drivers at night.

"Driving at night doesn’t have to be such a risky undertaking for Americans," said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, AAA. "The technology not only exists but is being used in other parts of the world to effectively provide the amount of light needed to keep drivers and pedestrians safe."

Low beams or high beams?

Deficiencies in headlight performance in the U.S. is not a new issue. Low beam headlights on most vehicles do not provide an adequate amount of light when driving at moderate speeds like 40 mph. High beams do improve forward illumination by 28 percent in comparison and are much more effective at providing the proper amount of light when traveling at higher speeds. However, since a majority of Americans (64 percent) do not regularly use their high beams, this means their visibility isn’t optimal and a motorist will likely not have enough time to react to something or someone in the roadway.

Some newer U.S. vehicles are equipped with technology that automatically switches between high and low beam, which does help to address this issue and increase visibility, but only when other vehicles aren’t present. Once an oncoming or preceding vehicle is detected, the car will switch from high to low beams, thus losing the benefit of the additional light. With ADB, the high beams are always on and when another vehicle is detected, that area is shaded to prevent glare that would otherwise interfere with the other driver’s field of vision.

ADB headlights for U.S. vehicles?

Change could be coming that would allow for ADB to be installed on U.S. vehicles. Following a petition from Toyota, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed an amendment last fall to allow manufacturers the option of equipping vehicles with this type of technology. AAA submitted comments to NHTSA regarding the proposed changes along with supporting primary research in an effort to provide insight into the performance of ADB as it exists today.

"AAA supports adaptive driving beam headlights and applauds NHTSA’s work in this area to potentially consider changing standards," said Jill Ingrassia, managing director of Government Relations & Traffic Safety Advocacy. "Allowing ADB will not only improve roadway visibility but the safety of every driver and pedestrian who must travel at night."

SAFETY TIPS FOR NIGHT DRIVING

Until the standards are changed, there are precautions drivers can take when driving at night. AAA recommends:

• When driving on unlit roadways, use high beams whenever possible. There is a difference between seeing the roadway markings, signs, and other vehicles, versus being able to perceive a non?reflective object in your path.

• Monitor and adjust driving speeds when traveling on unlit roads at night to allow enough time to detect, react and stop the vehicle in order to avoid striking a pedestrian, animal or object in the roadway.

• If your car’s headlamp lenses are anything but crystal clear, have them restored or replaced to improve light output.

For more information please read the Comparison of European and U.S. Specification Automotive Headlamp Performance report.

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