Every year in the United States, some 2,500 people walking along or crossing city streets and country roads are killed by cars.
Many of these deaths, experts say, could be avoided if cars and trucks in this country were equipped with the latest technology in headlights, as they are in Europe. But a woefully out-of-date federal regulation from 1968 prohibits the use of these brighter “adaptive beam” headlights, which automatically adjust to changing conditions.
Two major auto makers, Toyota of Japan and Audi of Germany, have asked permission to use these better lights, which would instantly make America’s roads safer, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been sitting on the request — without explanation — since 2013. It does not help that the NHTSA is working without a permanent administrator, President Donald Trump having yet to appoint one.
Drunk driving and distracted driving, such as talking on the phone and texting, are more to blame for pedestrians being hit by cars. But it’s inexcusable that a simple life-saving improvement — a better headlight — has been so long ignored.
Halogen headlights, found on 80 percent of U.S. cars today, are not up to par. A 2015 study by the American Automobile Association concluded that halogen lights do not provide adequate lighting at speeds over 45 mph. Adding to this, the Illinois Institute for Highway Safety this year gave a “good” rating for headlight packages to only two of 37 U.S. mid-size sport-utility vehicles.
Contrast this with the adaptive beams used in Europe. LED lights — rather than dimmer halogens — are set to high-beam at all times. As a car approaches, sensors detect the movement and dim or turn off individual lights within an array to create a pathway, following the vehicle until it passes.
Adaptive lights are prohibited in the United States because the 1968 regulation says headlights must have two separate beams — a high beam and a low beam — and adaptive lights don’t work that way. They work better.
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