Fall is here, and one thing drivers need to be especially careful of this time of year are deer crossing the road. If your headlights are poor, it may be harder to see these potential risks as they dart across roadways at night or during dusk and dawn hours.

A Light in the Dark

Last year, engineers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began evaluating the headlight systems of various vehicles and found that not all headlights perform equally. In fact, over half of the mid-size SUVs' headlights tested were rated as marginal or poor. With about half of all fatal crashes in the US occurring at night, and more than a quarter on unlit roads, it’s obvious the role headlights can play in preventing these accidents.

IIHS engineers measured how far the light from a vehicle’s headlights reach, with a brightness of at least five lux (the unit of measurement for the amount of light falling on a surface), as a vehicle travels straight and on curves. Based on a hypothetical ideal headlight system, these vehicle systems are tested as-is from the manufacturer, for both visibility and glare.

The latest group IIHS tested for headlight rating this year was mid-size SUVs. Among 27 2017 model year vehicles tested, both luxury and non-luxury, only two earned a good rating – the Volvo XC60 and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

For the 19 models in the non-luxury category, only four ranked as acceptable: the Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Highlander. Of the remaining vehicles, six were ranked marginal, and nine were ranked as poor.

Know Your Lights

In recent years, headlight technology has made great strides. Today, the traditional halogen light bulbs used for headlights have given way to high-intensity discharge and LED lighting systems. In addition, many automakers now offer more advanced headlight packages, which include features such as curve-adaptive headlights and automatic high beams.

deer crossing the streetSomething as simple as poorly aimed lights can affect the amount of usable light available. Other factors, such as bulb type and headlight technology, can also play a role. Knowing how your headlights are performing and how to improve them can help keep you safe as the days grow shorter. As deer and fog become more common in fall, it’s important to do all you can to improve your chances of seeing objects in time to avoid a collision.

These tips for headlight maintenance can help:

  • Replace Bulbs – Headlights dim over their lifetime, which can lead to impaired night vision. When a light goes out, you're reducing illumination by half, as well. Remember to replace bulbs in pairs, because only changing one will create an uneven field of vision.
  • Adjust as Needed – If your bulbs are new but you’re not getting enough usable light to drive at night, check the adjustment of your headlights. Most can be adjusted vertically for proper positioning.
  • Buff for Brightness – Another thing to try if your lights seem dim is to restore and polish the plastic headlight lens housing. Most auto parts and big-box stores sell polishing kits which can help if the plastic seems cloudy or degraded.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to safety this season, don’t take any part of your vehicle for granted. If it’s time to upgrade to a vehicle with more standard safety features, but bad credit has you down, don’t despair. Auto Credit Express wants to help connect you with a special finance dealer in your area. Our nationwide network of dealers has the lending resources to help people in tough credit situations. Simply fill out our online auto loan request form to get started today!