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NHTSA approves safer headlights for U.S. vehicles

Regulators say new headlights will illuminate more of the road

Car headlights
Photo (c) Bernhard Lang - Getty Images
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved the adoption of a new type of headlight in cars and trucks that the agency says will reduce accidents and save lives.

The agency has issued a final rule that allows automotive manufacturers to install “adaptive driving beam headlights” on new vehicles. Approval of the new headlights was mandated in the recently passed infrastructure bill.

In short, officials say the new headlights will provide more illumination of the roadway at night and will allow drivers to see animals and other objects in and along the road sooner.

“NHTSA prioritizes the safety of everyone on our nation’s roads, whether they are inside or outside a vehicle. New technologies can help advance that mission,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator. “NHTSA is issuing this final rule to help improve safety and protect vulnerable road users.”

The technology works by using an automatic headlight beam switching system to shine less light on occupied areas of the road and more light on unoccupied areas. This puts less light in the eyes of oncoming drivers.

The NHTSA says the adaptive beam is particularly useful for distance illumination of pedestrians, animals, and objects without reducing the visibility of drivers in other vehicles.

Inferior headlights can contribute to accidents

Personal injury lawyers have long pointed to headlights as the cause of avoidable accidents. One firm, Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C., says proper headlights make the driver visible to other motorists, potentially preventing an accident. 

“The brighter a vehicle’s lights, the more they are visible to other motorists,” the firm says on its website. “Considering all of the risks involved, headlights are vital to driving at night because they help the driver see and be visible.”

Joe, a classic car collector from Grovetown, Ga., has used LightInTheBox to replace all of his cars’ headlights with LED headlights.

“These LEDs have greatly improved my safety while driving with the magnitude of brightness they provide (as opposed to my original OEM headlights),” Joe wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “These cars are as old as 1980 and still running fine.”

It’s not clear whether the newly approved headlights will be available in the aftermarket. Automotive experts believe they will appear first on premium brand automobiles by the 2023 model year.

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