The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the headlights on 11 large and small pickup trucks, and the 2017-model year Honda Ridgeline was the only model to draw the highest possible rating of “good.”
All four small pickups that IIHS evaluated are available only with headlights that drew a “poor” rating. That’s also the case for three out of seven large pickups. Only the Honda Ridgeline is available with “good”-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with headlights rated “poor,” IIHS said.
Pickups are the third vehicle category to undergo the IIHS headlight evaluations. Mid-size cars were the first in March, followed by small SUVs in July.
“These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups,” said Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. “As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked.”
(To view an IIHS video about the test results, click on the photo or link below the headline.)
IIHS launched its headlight ratings after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving. In IIHS 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. Also measured is glare from low beams for oncoming drivers.
The 11 trucks evaluated have a total of 23 possible headlight combinations. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their “poor” ratings, according to IIHS. 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,” IIHS said in a released statement. “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 GMC Sierra has “acceptable”-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions drew a “marginal” or “poor” rating, IIHS said.
The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both scored a “marginal” rating from IIHS. The Ram 1500 has “marginal”-rated headlights on certain trim levels, while others have “poor”-rated ones.
The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, didn’t fare well either in IIHS tests. “Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams 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,” IIHS said. “The LED lights also produce unacceptable glare. The high beams on both versions have mostly inadequate visibility too.”
The Chevrolet Colorado also drew low scores because of visibility, according to IIHS. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup’s base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway. In contrast, 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.
IIHS is incorporating headlights into the criteria for its highest award, Top Safety Pick+. To qualify for the 2017 award, vehicles will need "good"- or "acceptable"-rated headlights.
The ratings below apply to the best available headlight system for each model. The ratings also apply to crew cab and extended cab models where available.
Good – 2017 Honda Ridgeline
Acceptable – 2016-17 GMC Sierra
Marginal – 2017 Nissan Titan and 2016 Ram 1500
Poor – 2016-17 Chevrolet Silverado, 2016-17 Ford F-150, 2016-17 Toyota Tundra
Poor – 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, 2016 GMC Canyon, 2016 Nissan Frontier, 2016-17 Toyota Tacoma