Most pickups are not doing a good job lighting up the road and were rated poorly in a new round of evaluations for headlight performance. “Drivers of late-model pickup trucks are likely to find themselves squinting into the darkness or temporarily blinding other drivers,” according to a ratings report released last week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry.
Headlights that enhance nighttime visibility are an important safety feature, as about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or at dawn or dusk, the group said, noting that the recent ratings indicated wide variations in performance among pickup trucks.
Four small and seven large pickups were evaluated. The best available headlight system for each of the 11 models received a good, acceptable, marginal or poor rating. All the small models received poor ratings.
(In a recent evaluation of pickup trucks, only the 2017 Honda Ridgeline was available with good-rated headlights; photo courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.)
Only one large pickup, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, is available with good-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones. (The good headlight systems are only available on the most expensive versions of the truck: the Ridgeline’s RTL-E and Black Edition trims).
Headlights with the worst visibility were on the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup’s base trim illuminated to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway, according to the report. In contrast, the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminated to 358 feet.
“These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups,” Matthew Brumbelow, a senior research engineer for the institute, said in a statement. “As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked.”
Light projected from a vehicle’s low beams and high beams, and glare from low beams for oncoming drivers are measured in the institute’s evaluations in five test scenarios. The availability of high-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present and makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams, was also considered in the testing.
The 2016 Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, was among the poorest performers, the group said. It cannot be purchased with anything better than poor headlights.
The group launched its headlight testing program in 2016 after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide. As a result, its evaluations found that standards vary widely and few vehicles have headlights that do their job well. Ratings for midsize cars and small SUVs were released earlier this year.
Overall, the group said, most headlights it has evaluated have received poor ratings.
Click here for more information about the ratings and here for details about headlight safety.