Tests find that most midsize SUVs' headlights are unsafe

IIHS, which has been gradually testing the hundreds of models sold in the US, concluded that 11 models offer "poor" headlights, 12 fall in the "marginal" category and 12 are "acceptable".

Headlights on midsize SUVs are improving when it comes to visibility, but many are doing a poor job of lighting up the road ahead while limiting bothersome glare. On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that the 2017 Volvo XC60 was one of two midsize SUVs of 37 tested that had headlights receiving a "good" rating.

IIHS gave good or acceptable ratings to just 14 of the 37 midsize SUV models in its most recent study, leaving 23 models in the "marginal" or "poor" ranges.

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

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows there are 136 glare-related complaints submitted on 2013-2017 vehicle models, with just seven of those coming from 2017 models so far.

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. Their test measures how far headlights shine down straightaways and curves to an intensity of at least 5 lux.

Headlights on the Volvo XC60 scored the highest.

The Santa Fe has curve-adaptive HID projector headlights with high-beam assist like the XC60. On the right side of the straightaway, for example, the Sorento's low beams only illuminate 148 feet, compared with 315 feet for the XC60's low beams. "Still, we continue to see headlights that compromise safety because they only provide a short view down the road at night".

"Managing glare can be more challenging for taller vehicles like SUVs and pickups because their headlights are mounted higher than on cars", Brumbelow said.

IIHS began testing headlights a year ago and whether on sedans, small SUVs pickups or now midsize SUVs, they've all largely underperformed. "Better aim at the factory can minimize glare", but as there are no federal standards specifically guiding the process, automakers simply weren't making an effort to reduce this problem.

And while the Hyundai Santa Fe received a "good" rating, the sport version of the SUV received a "poor" rating.

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".

  • Carolyn Briggs