RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – There is disturbing news about the SUV headlights as tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that mid-sized SUVs have headlights that just aren’t effective at long distances.
The institute claims the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2017 Volvo XC60 are the only models available with good-rated headlights among the 19 midsize SUVs and 18 midsize luxury SUVs evaluated in a round of tests.
Twelve SUVs are available with headlights rated acceptable, while 23 aren’t available with anything other than marginal or poor-rated headlights.
The institute‘s tests and scoring indicate one of the worst midsize SUVs for headlight visibility is the Kia Sorento.
The institute’s study claims the Sorento’s curve-adaptive projector low beams fail to provide adequate visibility on the straightaway, left curves and a gradual right curve.
On the right side of the straightaway, for example, the Sorento’s low beams only illuminate 148 feet, compared with 315 feet for the Volvo XC60’s low beams.
A comparison video of nighttime driving of the distance illuminated by the Volvo XC60 and a Kia Sorrento demonstrates the institute’s claim.
In the video, the driver of the Sorento can’t see a person on the roadway just 100 feet away or a pair of deer 200 feet away.
By comparison, the headlights of the Volvo in tests made by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety illuminated both the person and the deer.
“Too many headlights compromise safety because they only allow a short view a few down the road at night,’’ says senior research engineer Matt Brumbelow.
In the institute’s evaluations, engineer’s measure how far light is projected from a vehicle’s low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves.
Glare for oncoming vehicles was also measured from low beams in each scenario to make sure it isn’t excessive.
This was the fourth group of headlight tests of vehicles the Institute has evaluated since launching headlight ratings in 2016.
“We launched our ratings because government standards are based on lab tests and these allow a huge range of illumination in actual on-road driving,” says Brumbelow.
One of the most important factors in making headlights more effective is to make sure they are aimed properly.
“Occasionally we’ll have someone come in questioning the alignment of the headlights,” says Stan Creech of Creech Import Repair in Raleigh, a shop that’s been in business for more than 25 years.
Creech says because so many headlights are now factory aimed there’s little a mechanic can do.
“Unfortunately on new cars today you’re limited as to what you can do as far as adjusting compared to older cars,’’ explained Creech.
Glare is another problem with many of the headlights tested by the institute.
“When headlights produce a lot of glare it doesn’t mean they light up the road very well,” says Brumbelow.
Automakers are working on new technology such as headlights that swivel around corners and lights that dim automatically when they sense an oncoming vehicle.
But experts say, it’s going to take time to fix headlight distance performance.
Experts say if you’re driving one of the poorly rated SUVs in order to get the best visibility they recommend using your high beams as much as possible.
Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.