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AAA research shows the danger of driving with old headlights

Are you driving with old or dirty headlights? AAA research suggests that’s a bad idea.

New test results from AAA show that clouded or yellow headlights only generate more than 20 percent the amount of lights that new headlights do, which means dangerous nighttime driving.

AAA urges drivers to check their headlights for signs of deterioration and invest in new headlights or, at a minimum, a low-cost service to boost the safety of driving after dark.

And dangerous driving isn’t the only downside of cloudy lights.

“Clouded or yellow headlights are a safety issue,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “In some states, motorists can be ticketed for headlights that significantly reduce visibility.”

AAA found deteriorated headlights, when used on low beam, provided just 22 percent of the amount of light a new headlight does when operating at full capacity.

Replacing headlights with original equipment manufacturer parts is the most effective method to restore light output back to 100 percent, AAA said in a press release.

Aftermarket parts also performed well, restoring light output between 83 and 90 percent, however these did fail to meet certain requirements for light intensity and were found to be more likely to produce glare for oncoming traffic, AAA said.

Restoring headlights, while the most cost effective option, offered less of an improvement in light output than replacement. Professional and DIY restoration returned light output back to approximately 70 percent. Both restoration methods, however, produced more glare than is acceptable according DOT criteria, AAA said.

AAA also says that U.S. headlights have significant shortcomings. Previous AAA research found that halogen headlights fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph, with high beam settings offering only marginal improvements.

AAA’s recommendations for nighttime driving:

  • When driving at night on unlit roadways, use high beams whenever possible.
  • Monitor and adjust driving speeds when traveling on unlit roads at night to allow enough time to detect, react and stop the vehicle in order to avoid striking pedestrians, animals or objects in the roadway.
  • If your car’s headlamp lenses are not crystal clear, have them restored, this will provide a noticeable increase in visibility, and reduce the glare from other motorist.
  • If you are 60 or older and headlight glare is an issue, have your eyes checked by a medical professional. Cataracts that cloud the eye’s lens may be contributing to the problem.

Unlike batteries or tires, most drivers are not in the habit of routinely inspecting their headlights. AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding and if the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lenses replaced or restored as soon as possible. AAA recommends replacement since this method offers the most improvement in the amount of light produced. Both replacement and restoration services are provided by many repair shops including many AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

Reporter:Sara Girard
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