IIHS slams pickups for poor headlight ratings

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Updated Oct 26, 2016
IIHS headlight test compares the top-scoring 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the most poorly lit pickup, the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado.IIHS headlight test compares the top-scoring 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the most poorly lit pickup, the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado.

Only one pickup received a good headlight rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Out of the 11 full and mid-size trucks that were tested, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline was the only one to be given a good rating following low and high beam tests for visibility and glare.

The news comes as a wake-up call since now IIHS requires that vehicles must have a good or acceptable headlight rating to qualify for the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ Award, the highest safety award given by IIHS.

OEMs have some work to do, and IIHS made that clear in a video posted on its YouTube channel where one of its engineers singled out the Ford F-150 for its lackluster illumination.

“The Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., was one of the worst performers,” said Matthew Brumbelow, IIHS senior research engineer. “Neither the base halogen or the optional LED low beams provided adequate visibility in any of our tests.”

According to an IIHS press release, both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams on the 2016 and 2017 F-150 provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions. The LED lights also produce unacceptable glare. The high beams on both versions have mostly inadequate visibility too.

But the F-150 wasn’t the worst performer. That distinction goes to the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, which Brumbelow also called out in the video.

“The halogen low beams on the Colorado only allow a driver to see 123 feet on the right side of a straightaway,” Brumbelow said. “By contast, the LED low beams on the Honda Ridgeline allow you to see almost three times as far.”

IIHS reports that it launched its headlight ratings program after learning that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for vast variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving.

In the Institute’s evaluations, engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle’s low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers also is measured.

The 11 trucks evaluated have a total of 23 possible headlight combinations. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their poor ratings. A vehicle cannot earn a rating better than marginal if it produces too much glare in any of the five test scenarios.

A bright spot in the ratings is the headlight system on the Ridgeline’s RTL-E and Black Edition trims. The LED projector low beams provide fair to good visibility on most approaches, with inadequate visibility only on the gradual left curve. High-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present, makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams.

The 2016 and 2017 GMC Sierra has acceptable-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating.

The two kinds of headlights available on the 2017 Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating. The 2016 Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels, while others have poor ones.

The halogen reflector low beams on the Chevrolet Colorado’s base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway, while the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminate to 358 feet.

All the pickups except for the Ridgeline come in both extended cab and crew cab versions, and they share the same headlights. The Ridgeline comes only as a crew cab.