How well do midsize SUV headlights light up the road?

52% of traffic fatalities occur when it’s dark outside and visibility is lower (NTSA)

When Mallory Seale decided to buy her 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, roominess, luxury and gas mileage were top priorities. Lighting up the road? Not so much.

“When shopping for a car, do you ever consider the quality of the headlights?” I asked Seale. “Actually, I had not. I had not thought about the quality of the headlights.”

Headlights are important to Toni Ford. She doesn’t want to hit any deer when she drives to and from the lake at night.

“I know that, you know, bright lights will freeze a deer, and so that’s important to me,” Ford told ABC 33/40 News.

Most people test drive SUV’s, and other cars, in the daytime — not at night. So, they really don’t have a clue about how well the headlights perform until after they buy the car.

Most traffic fatalities occur when it’s dark

According to the federal government’s National Transportation Safety Administration, 52% of traffic fatalities occur when it’s dark outside and visibility is lower. That’s why quality headlights are so important.

Here are the test results for 37 luxury and non-luxury midsize SUV’s

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a non-profit safety group funded by the insurance industry.

The organization tested 37 luxury and non-luxury 2017 midsize SUV’s to see how good their lights are. Click on this link, and you'll find detailed results of each SUV tested from good, to acceptable, to marginal, to poor. More than half of the midsize SUV’s tested had headlights that rated marginal or poor.

Matt Brumbelow is the senior research engineer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“There is a federal regulation that governs how much light should come out of a headlight,” said Brumbelow. “Unfortunately, there are several issues with that regulation. It doesn’t control how much light hits the road.”

The headlights on the 2017 Volvo XC 60 and the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe received top scores from the Insurance Institute — a good rating as long as you buy the models with the optional headlight equipment.

In the video above, check out the head-to-head low-beam test between the top-performing Volvo XC 60 and the poor performing Kia Sorento. You can see the stark difference between the two cars when driving at night.

“The Kia Sorento is an example of a poor-rated vehicle,” Brumbelow said. “It only allows a driver to see far enough to drive about 35 mph even on a straight section of road with your low beams.”

It’s important to note that the Kia Sorento is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety pick in crash tests. So, the Institute’s poor rating only applies to the 2017 Sorento’s headlights.

Kia’s response

Here’s a statement from Kia Motors America regarding the headlight test: “Kia is proud of its strong safety record... Kia will carefully evaluate the results of this test as part of its commitment to continuous improvement.”

NHTSA’s response

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told ABC 33/40 News that it "welcomes data and research, including that by the IIHS, that can serve to encourage manufacturers to improve headlight performance beyond minimum federal safety standards."

Industry response

The Auto Alliance trade group, which represents many automobile manufacturers, didn’t have a specific comment to the Insurance Institute’s test because of the wide variety of test results.

A spokesman did say the group wants to modernize U.S. standards to allow adaptive driving beam headlights that help reduce the number of single vehicle crashes.

Meantime, regardless of what kind of car you’re considering buying, you might want to take a test drive at night to see how the headlights perform.

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