When you think of your car's safety features: seatbelts, airbags, and anti-lock breaks come to mind. But a new test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) looks at headlights, and how well they light up the road as part of a car's safety score.
"To be blunt with you, it (headlight quality) should be something that people take into consideration," said Aaron Carter, the general sales manager at Teton Toyota in Idaho Falls.
The new IIHS headlight tests measure the reach of a car's low and high beams on a strait road, gently curved, and tightly curved roads. The better a headlight illuminates the road to a certain distance, the better it scores. That doesn't mean the brightest lights always do the best. Engineers also look at the glare given by a car's headlights towards oncoming traffic. Too much glare, and a car get's dinged on it's score as it becomes unsafe for other drivers.
In order for a vehicle to get the IIHS's highest safety honor, the "Top Safety Pick Plus" award, a car must pass all five crash tests, get an advanced or superior rating on a pre-collision avoidance system, and have a good or acceptable rating for headlights.
Carter said the many of the new Toyota's on the lot come standard with the advanced LED lights because it makes a difference for drivers and vehicle safety.
"You can tell by even driving around tonight even, the lines on the roads are difficult to see. If you can get the light in the right area, you can tell what lane you're supposed to traveling in," said Carter.
While the new technology does make driving at night easier for drivers, it doesn't help much when it comes to insurance costs, at least not directly.
"Right now there's no discounts for it (high scoring headlights)," said Reese Shurtliff , an auto insurance expert with Alpine Insurance Group in Idaho Falls.
However, having good headlights indirectly helps drivers save money in the long run, by helping them avoid more accidents at night. "Obviously if you have a better record and you're a safer driver, it's going to save you money that way," said Shurtliff.
For those who are curious, a more detailed look at how the IIHS tests vehicle headlights can be found HERE.
A list of the IIHS's top safety picks can be found HERE.