When it comes to throwing sufficient light on the subject, most pickup trucks don't get the job done.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), all four small late-model pickups and three out of seven large vehicles that were evaluated got poor ratings.
In fact, only one large pickup -- the Honda Ridgeline -- is available with good-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones.
"These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups," says Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. "As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked."
How they are tested
In the IIHS evaluations, engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle's low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers also is measured.
There are 23 possible headlight combinations for the 11 trucks evaluated. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their poor ratings. A vehicle cannot earn a rating better than marginal if it produces too much glare in any of the five test scenarios.
How'd we do?
A bright spot in the ratings is the headlight system on the Ridgeline's RTL-E and Black Edition trims. The LED projector low beams provide fair to good visibility on most approaches, with inadequate visibility only on the gradual left curve.
High-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present, makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams.
The GMC Sierra has acceptable-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating.
The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating. The Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels, while others have poor ones.
The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, is among the poorest performers. Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions.
The headlights with the worst visibility are on the Chevrolet Colorado. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup's base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway. In contrast, the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminate to 358 feet.
IIHS is incorporating headlights into the criteria for its highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+. To qualify for the 2017 award, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights.