It isn’t your imagination—your headlights aren’t throwing enough light in the dark. According to a new study by AAA, yellowed or clouded headlights produce only 22 percent of the light new headlights do. On winter nights, that’s an especially dangerous number. The cause: sunlight damage to the protective plastic coatings over the light. Headlights can start dimming three to five years after coming off the assembly line.
“Walk through any parking lot and it is evident that deteriorated headlights are a problem for most vehicle owners,’’ says Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Headlights on the road in the U.S., even when new, don’t produce a sufficient amount of lighting, so any reduction in performance is a real safety issue.”
“We check our batteries, but most of us are not in the habit of examining our headlights,” he said. “AAA suggests that it is time to have the lights replaced if the bulb is hard to see.”
Light the Way to Safety
Driving at night in general can be dangerous, and with shorter days and increased winter weather conditions, drivers’ ability to avoid auto accidents can be compromised. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the chance of a fatal crash is three times higher at night than in daylight.
Half of car crashes occur after dark. When a car is new, headlights provide night vision for about 250 feet; high beams expand that to about 500 feet, less than what we can see when the sun is shining. Limited visibility only gets worse with age. A 50-year-old driver needs twice as much light as a 30-year-old.
Don’t Take Headlight Quality for Granted
By not maintaining headlights, drivers are taking a serious risk when operating a vehicle in dangerously dim conditions. AAA suggests replacing headlights with manufacturer parts, saying its testing has found that to be the most effective method to get as much light shining as possible.
Besides making sure your headlights are working properly, the NSC suggests:
- Cleaning your windshield to eliminate streaks
- Looking away from oncoming lights
- Dimming your dashboard
- Wearing anti-reflective lenses
- Driving the speed limit
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