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Headlights Got Welcome Upgrades after IIHS Updated Award Criteria

  • Last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) changed the criteria for their Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards to include headlight quality.
  • Following that change, automakers have upgraded their headlights and many have standard headlights that have achieved the top rating of Good.
  • The IIHS evaluates headlights based on how well they illuminate both straight and curved roads.

    After the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revised the criteria for a vehicle to earn one of its top two safety awards to include headlight quality, automakers promptly responded, the safety institute claims. The IIHS revised the rule for 2020, and following that rule change, at least 10 automakers have improved their headlights for the 2021 model year.

    As a result of the rule change in 2020, many automakers fell short of the top two awards from the IIHS. And for many of those which did satisfy the IIHS’s criteria for Good or Acceptable headlights in 2020, they didn’t come standard with that level of headlight. “More manufacturers are going to a single headlight package for many 2021 models, which is a big win for consumers,” IIHS president David Harkey said in a statement. “Sometimes, taking an inferior piece of equipment off the market is as important as the invention of a better one.”

    For instance, in 2020, Subaru offered multiple headlight options on the Outback, Forester, Ascent, and Legacy, with only one of the options being rated as Good by the IIHS. Now, all of those vehicles offer just one option, which is rated as Good, for 2021.

    The top two awards the IIHS gives out are Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+, with the latter being the superior rating. So far through testing of 2021 models, 10 vehicles earned the higher of the two awards this year—and the lower one last year—as a result of a headlight upgrade. The Ascent is one such vehicle. The others are the Audi A7, Honda Accord, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Altima, Toyota Highlander, Volvo S60, Volvo XC40, and Volvo XC60.

    The IIHS rates headlights based on how well they illuminate straight and curved roads; headlights rated Good, on their low setting, can illuminate the right side of the road at least 325 feet ahead (IIHS notes that the worst headlights are good for only 220 feet, and sometimes less). The IIHS also awards points for vehicles with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high- and low-beams. The agency also deducts for any headlights if they produce a glare that can blind oncoming drivers.

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