IIHS and Headlight Safety Ratings

Car technologies are evolving in numerous ways, but one critical component is still lagging. Headlights are using mostly the same technology that we’ve had for decades. The the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) wants to start changing that.

The organization’s safety awards will hinge on the quality of the headlights in vehicle beginning in 2020.

If automakers want to qualify for the top honors, then each car must have a “good” or “acceptable” headlight system on even the most affordable trims.

That requirement is in addition to the other criteria the IIHS set for its 2020 awards.

How Automakers Can Qualify for the IIHS Top Awards

Each make and model that the IIHS evaluates must meet specific stipulations for it to qualify for the top awards that get handed out each year.

Front crash prevention must earn “advanced” ratings for vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-vehicle evaluations. These requirements apply to the organization’s Top Safety Pick award.

This change reflects a desire to encourage individual safety while driving because of almost 6,000 people each year are killed in the United States in car-related crashes. Another 129,000 people receive treatment at emergency departments annually.

Headlight ratings fall into four rating categories: good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. Anyone wanting to qualify for the Top Safety Pick Plus award must meet the standards to fit into the first two categories.

Only three headlight systems in the 2016 model year earned the top rating out of 224 that the IIHS evaluated. Another 36 had equipment that had the “acceptable” rating.

In the 2019 model year, 171 systems out of the 465 that received evaluation received the “good” or “acceptable” rating.

Many of the systems that receive the top IIHS ratings are part of optional equipment. That means it only applies to the most expensive options provided by the automakers.

Why Is There an Emphasis on Headlight Safety?

The IIHS wants automakers and drivers to recognize that weak headlights can jeopardize the safety of people on our roadways. Issues like excessive glare or inadequate reach can make it a challenge to identify safety hazards that may be present in a lane.

Having a wide range of headlight ratings for the same model is also confusing for shoppers. Some buyers might think they’re purchasing an award-winning model without realizing that they chose an equipment package that didn’t meet the IIHS standards.

The changes that the IIHS is making for the 2020 awards season will ensure there is less ambiguity in the selection process. Although these new criteria might put some pressure on automakers, it will be a good thing for buyers and drivers who want to get behind the wheel of a car that lets them see at night.