Study rates only 2 of 37 midsize SUVs headlights “good”


(CBSN) — A new study out Tuesday morning shows many midsize SUV’s struggle to light up the roads at night.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looked at headlights on 37 different models.

Only two got good reviews and eleven models received poor grades.

While all the headlights on every SUV in the study do meet federal standards, those given a poor grade by the IIHS — like the Dodge Journey — may keep drivers from seeing obstacles in the road with enough time to properly react, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

The Kia Sorento ranked among the worst of those tested by the IIHS.

Matthew Brumbelow is a senior research engineer.

“So, when I say the Kia Sorento, 35 miles an hour is really about fastest you should be driving with your low beams on,” Brumbelow said.

Headlights on the Volvo XC60 scored the highest. Compared to the Kia Sorento, you can see the person 100 feet away and even make out a deer 200 feet down the road; properly positioned, they also won’t blind oncoming drivers.

“If you are involved in a crash at night, with better headlights you might have avoided that collision,” Brumbelow said.

IIHS began testing headlights last year and whether on sedans, small SUVs pickups or now midsize SUVs, they’ve all largely underperformed.

In one round, researchers evaluated 37 SUVs with 79 possible headlight combinations.

When fitted with their best headlight systems, 11 models were rated “poor,” the lowest score possible.

Only two got top marks — the Volvo XC60 and Hyundai Santa Fe, which is equipped with highly-specialized curve-adapted lights.

“If you are in the market for a new car and safety is your top concern, take a look at the IIHS safety standards when it comes to headlight performance but also roll over, crash protection, air bags,” said Edward Loh of Motor Trend magazine.

CBS News reached out to the carmakers whose headlights received a poor grade, and a majority of them said that while their vehicles meet or exceed federal government safety standards, they still intend to evaluate the results of the study.

Carmaker statements

In a statement to “CBS This Morning,” Kia said the Kia Sorento “has been named a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” and that “Kia will carefully evaluate the results of this test as part of its commitment to continuous improvement.”

Toyota said, “Toyota remains committed to providing headlights that provide appropriate lighting performance for the drivers of our vehicles while being sensitive to the glare that will be experienced by drivers of oncoming vehicles.”

Nissan said their “engineers will evaluate these test results and other relevant data for updates as appropriate.”

Ford said: “Our mid-size SUV headlamps meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety laws, and we will consider the findings of the IIHS analysis as we work to continuously improve safety.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said: “FCA US designs and engineers its vehicles for real-world performance. All FCA US vehicles meet or exceed federal safety requirements.”

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