Blinded by the Light: The Lack of Glare-Reducing Headlights in U.S. Cars
Driving at night can be a daunting experience, especially with the glaring lights of oncoming cars blinding you. For years, the U.S. has lagged behind in updating its safety standards concerning headlights, while the rest of the world has reaped the benefits of innovative technology. Despite the high frequency of nighttime crashes that result in fatalities in the U.S., the government has only recently allowed the use of advanced adaptive driving beams, which are already available in other countries. So why is the U.S. taking so long to implement headlight technology that could save lives?
The Problem with U.S. Headlights
According to experts, improving lighting is essential to preventing nighttime crashes, which have a higher fatality rate than daytime collisions. However, U.S. motorists may face more headlight glare and less effective headlights than drivers in other countries. One of the reasons for this is that the U.S. has not substantively updated its standards since the ‘70s, while technology has marched on.
In the past two decades, vehicle headlights have shifted from primarily warm-yellowish halogen to cool-bluish LED, which human eyes are more sensitive to. Furthermore, new vehicles are becoming increasingly taller, making oncoming headlights more likely to be eye-level for drivers in smaller cars. Few states also annually check for headlight misalignment, which can lift light into an oncoming driver’s eyes. Therefore, Americans are experiencing more glare than ever before, which could cause accidents.
The Solution: Adaptive Driving Beams
Adaptive driving beams are the technology solution that the U.S. needs to improve headlight safety conditions for drivers. While newer U.S. headlights automatically switch between high and low beams, adaptive driving beams take those improvements much further by using constantly adjusting projected light to reduce glare. They work by shining less light on occupied areas of the road and more on unoccupied ones. Research shows they make it much easier for drivers to spot pedestrians. Adaptive driving beams have been in use in Europe since 2012 and are available in every major automotive market worldwide, except the U.S.
However, getting this technology approved in the U.S. took nearly a decade. Toyota first petitioned the agency to allow adaptive driving beams in 2013, a year after they were introduced in Europe. As the U.S. adaptive driving beam rule inched through the regulatory process, automakers were eager to offer the feature to American drivers. Audi, for example, began including adaptive driving beam systems on some of its models sold in the U.S. as early as 2014, in anticipation of regulation changes.
The current U.S. regulation, which allowed the technology in the U.S. for the first time in 2022, has testing requirements that are so detailed and cumbersome that automakers say they would have to redesign the systems, potentially delaying implementation by years, despite the already available European technology. Safety researchers cautioned regulators against creating that kind of red tape years ago.
– Nighttime crashes have a higher fatality rate than daytime collisions.
– The U.S. has not substantively updated its lighting standards since the ‘70s.
– Adaptive driving beams reduce glare and make it easier for drivers to spot pedestrians.
– The U.S. is decades behind other developed countries in updating its headlight technology standards.
The lack of innovative headlight technology in the U.S. is a significant safety issue that needs to be addressed. Although the U.S. has only recently allowed the use of adaptive driving beams, they have been in use in other countries for over a decade. The U.S. government needs to do more to ensure that American drivers are equipped with safe and effective headlight technology.
Blinding oncoming lights are a common problem for U.S. drivers, and the lack of innovative headlight technology has resulted in more nighttime accidents with high fatality rates. It is time for the U.S. government to realize the urgent need for updated headlight technology, especially the much-needed adaptive driving beams, which have been in use in other developed countries for years. The U.S. government should take immediate action to introduce these necessary measures to ensure everyone’s road safety.