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Outdated headlights are not a safety bright spot in Cary

Cary residents may be concerned to hear that approximately 2,500 pedestrians are killed in a fatal car accident at road crossings each year during the nighttime hours because of outdated headlights according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Headlight technology has not kept pace with other recent improvements in other automobile equipment such as cameras, computers and warning signals.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that two-thirds of lighting packages available on 21 small sport utility vehicles performed poorly in 2016. Ten mid-size auto headlights and seven pickup headlight packages were also rated as poor. Low-beam headlights on 80 percent of vehicles do not provide adequate stopping distances when a vehicle is travelling over 40 mph, according to a AAA study.

Outdated federal rules block the introduction of adaptive beam headlights, already used in Europe and Japan, which reduce glare and improve driver visibility by automatically adjusting to oncoming vehicles. Styling and manufacturing errors on headlight systems also led to excessive glare, insufficient light on the pavement and other substandard performance.

Many critics have claimed that manufacturers stressed aesthetics instead of safety. Additionally, headlights have scattered lighting in the wrong places because they were not affixed correctly during manufacturing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not acted on a request by Toyota, which was submitted four years ago and was supported by the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, to permit adaptive beam technology. The NHTSA has, however, acknowledged that this technological improvement may be as important as new self-driving vehicles to eliminate traffic fatalities. It takes at least two years to revise regulations.

Manufacturers have provided an optional package certain vehicle models which automatically turns on high beams when needed. This is important because research shows that drivers activated their high beams only 25 percent of the time they were needed. The use of currently-available swivel lights has also lowered accidents by swiveling with the road's curvature.

Families of victims of fatal accident caused by a negligent driver or defective equipment may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney can assist victims and their families with gathering evidence and pursuing their rights in court.

Source: USA Today, "Outdated headlights put drivers and pedestrians at risk," Nathan Bomey, May 26, 2017

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