You Can Outrun Your Headlights!
You may have thought it was a myth used to keep people from speeding, but new research from AAA has shown that it is possible for a vehicle to outrun its headlights.
AAA’s automotive engineering team enlisted the help of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center to compare the performance of halogen, high-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode headlights to determine the illumination provided at both low- and high-beam settings. Their results showed that halogen headlights – found on more than 80 percent of vehicles on the road – are insufficient on low-beam settings when driving at highway speeds on roadways with no additional overhead lighting.
The math is surprisingly simple: At 55 miles per hour, you need about 500 feet to perceive an obstacle, react to it, and bring your vehicle to a complete and safe stop. AAA’s research found that the most common halogen reflector lights illuminate only 300 feet on low beams. That leaves 200 feet of dark road where obstacles could be lurking unseen, with no time for drivers to react to the hazard. Drivers of late-model vehicles equipped with high-intensity discharge (HID) have illumination up to 400 feet on low beams, and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting provides illumination up to 450 feet.
Most highways are dotted with lights to make up the headlight shortfall. Absent overhead lighting, high-beam headlights can improve sight distances by an average of 28 percent for vehicles evaluated. AAA recommends drivers use high-beam settings where safety permits.
Simple Steps to Reduce Glare, Improve Visibility
AAA testing also found that dirty headlights are dangerous. Pitted, yellow and hazy lights produce significantly less output, and the damaged lens causes the light to scatter instead of focusing on the road where you need it. Deteriorated headlights also contribute to glare for oncoming or preceding vehicles.
AAA’s tests found that you can dramatically improve the performance of your deteriorated headlights with a few simple steps. Using a basic headlight restoration kit – available at any auto supply store – doubled the maximum light intensity and reduces glare-producing light scatter by 60 percent. These results were achieved by a do-it-yourself product.
Keep your headlights clean and protected through regular application of a preservative – like sunscreen for your headlights. Continue this process as part of your monthly maintenance routine to control deterioration.