Some 50% of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads. Better headlights can mean the difference between life and death.  -  Photo via  unsplash.com /Julian Klumpers

Some 50% of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads. Better headlights can mean the difference between life and death.

Photo via unsplash.com/Julian Klumpers

Driving at night is three times as risky as driving during the daytime, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Now, nighttime driving safety is enhanced thanks to the recent final rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which allows automakers to install adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights on new vehicles.

Widely used in Europe and Asia for over a decade, these “smart” headlights have been illegal in the U.S. up until now, reports The New York Times. President Biden’s Infrastructure Act passed last year set a 2023 deadline for ADB headlights to be approved for American roads.

ADB systems use automatic headlight beam switching technology to shine less on the occupied areas of the road and more light on unoccupied areas. The adaptive beam is particularly useful for distance illumination of pedestrians, cyclists, animals, and objects in the roadway without reducing the visibility of other drivers in other vehicles.

About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads, according to IIHS. So the new NHTSA ruling promises to improve safety for all road users — and in particular, vulnerable road users like pedestrians who can’t always be easily spotted by drivers.

A 2019 study indicates that widespread adoption of ADB headlights could prevent thousands of crashes involving people on foot as well as cyclists every year, reports The Times.

According to federal data from 2015, the study reported 2,000 pedestrian deaths, and 31,000 injuries, in which alcohol was not a factor but dark or low-light conditions were. It pointed to about 14,000 such crashes involving cyclists. AAA expects that smart headlights would prevent at least 6% of these crashes, resulting in thousands of saved lives and over $1 billion in reduced economic and societal expense, reports The Times.

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