Car Accidents At Night

Car accidents at night: The outcome of damaged headlights on car user’s visibility 

The issue of road Traffic accidents has now, more than ever, become a topic of national concern. This is due to the magnitude of its negative impact on the minds of those involved, the consequence on the economy, and public health. Today in most hospitals, car accidents and road traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of hospitalization, disabilities, and death, with severe socioeconomic costs, across the world. In the United States alone, there were over 5,700,000 auto crashes from 2010 to 2021 with over 380,000 of these crashes resulting in deaths and injuring over 4,000,000. Each year, 23% of these road accidents happen at night (over a million) and are caused by poor visibility due to bad car headlights and hazardous weather conditions.

Motor vehicle crashes

Motor vehicle crashes The Outcome of Damaged Headlights on Car User's Visibility 

According to the statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2021 released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is an 18.4 percent increase in the number of Americans who have died as a result of motor vehicle crashes compared to the first half of last year 2020. This consistent upward trend confirms the estimated 7.2 percent increase in car crash deaths recorded in 2020 and the worst we’ve recorded for a half year period since 2006. The NHTSA also noted that the motor vehicle crash deaths recorded in the second quarter of 2021 were unfortunately the highest for a second quarter since 1990 and the highest quarterly percentage change of 23 percent, in the history of the United States of America. Although early data portrayed a 13.0 percent increase in the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as compared to 2020, it also shows an increased fatality rate of 1.34 fatalities per 100 million VMT compared to previous 1.28 fatalities per 100 million VMT from the first half of 2020. 

Traffic death, 2010 – 2020

YearFatalitiesAnnual percentage changeFatalities rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveledFatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles
201032,885-2.9%1.1112.77
201132,479-1.61.1012.25
201233,7824.01.1412.72
201332,893-2.61.1012.21
201432,744-0.51.0811.92
201535,4848.41.1512.61
201637,8066.51.1913.13
201737,473-0.91.1712.91
201836,835-1.71.1412.40
201936,096-2.01.1112.06
202038,6807.21.37NA

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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Factors that can cause motor vehicle crashes 

Factors that can cause motor vehicle crashes 

So, is the rise in vehicle miles traveled the cause of the increased road car crashes recorded? The answer is no! While there are a number of factors that can lead to motor vehicle accidents on the road, the most common of them all is “human error.” Human error such as the negligence to carry out prompt and proper car maintenance, over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, and texting while driving. Other factors that can contribute to road traffic accidents include mechanical problems with the vehicle and bad weather conditions. When people hear vehicle mechanical problems, they typically think of car brakes, transmission issues, steering, engine, and more. However, mechanical problems can also include functions that can affect the driver’s visibility. This is why researchers are now taking a closer look at poorly performing headlights and how they affect our driving experience. 

Unlike poorly performing headlights, a good car headlight allows the driver to see a good amount of distance ahead of them and also helps them to be seen by other road users and motorists. However, this isn’t the case as many of the headlights manufactured are of substandard quality. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled data on headlight quality and safety. The standard for the IIHS quality headlight rating is distance illuminated. This entails the distance car headlights can reach on either straight or curved roads. With this benchmark, a lot of older vehicles with halogen bulbs and reflector housings were found wanting and ranked low because they were not able to illuminate a farther distance as many modern headlights with LED or HID bulbs. When a vehicle has insufficient headlight beam, dimmed headlights, oxidized, or foggy headlights, it means that the driver will not be able to see dangers ahead of him on-time until it is too late to react. This human error is what contributes significantly to many car accidents. 

Improper headlight usage and consequences 

Improper headlight usage and consequences 

The use of car headlights the right way can mean the difference between a safe driving experience and the cause of an accident. When a driver has dirty, burnt-out, cloudy, broken, dim, or overly bright headlights, he or she can easily cause an accident with another driver who couldn’t see him or her properly due to the quality of the headlights. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 50% of car accidents happen at night. So, if car headlights aren’t being used properly the consequence is the increase in the nighttime accidents happening throughout the US. 

Although the different states of the US have established headlight laws with the intention of reducing road traffic accidents, lots of vehicles are still seen with either cloudy headlights, overly bright beams, or reckless usage of high beams. This failure by drivers to adhere to the already established headlight usage laws has also contributed to the rising road crash fatality rates occurring in the country. 

Motor vehicle traffic deaths by state, 2018-2019

Number of deathsNumber of Deaths
State 20182019Percentage changeState 20182019Percentage change
Alabama953930-2.4%Montana1811841.7%
Alaska 8067-16.3Nebraska2302487.8
Arizona1,011981-3.0Nevada329304-7.6
Arkansas520505-2.9New Hampshire147101-31.3
California3,7983,606-5.1New Jersey563559-0.7
Colorado632596-5.7New Mexico3924248.2
Connecticut293249-15.0New York964931-3.4
Delaware11113218.9North Carolina1,4361,373-4.4
D.C.3123-25.8North Dakota105100-4.8
Florida3,1353,1831.5Ohio1,0681,1538.0
Georgia1,5051,491-0.9Oklahoma655640-2.3
Hawaii117108-7.7Oregon502489-2.6
Idaho234224-4.3Pennsylvania1,1901,059-11.0
Illinois1,0351,009-2.5Rhode Island5957-3.4
Indiana860809-5.9South Carolina1,0361,001-3.4
Lowa3193365.3South Dakota130102-21.5
Kansas4054111.5Tennessee1,0401,1359.1
Kentucky7247321.1Texas3,6483,615-0.9
Louisiana771727-5.7Utah260248-4.6
Maine13615715.4Vermont6847-30.9
Maryland5125211.8Virginia8208311.3
Massachusetts355334-5.9Washington539519-3.7
Michigan9779850.8West Virginia294260-11.6
Minnesota381364-4.5Wisconsin589566-3.9
Mississippi663643-3.0Wyoming11114732.4
Missouri921880-4.5United States36,83536,096-2.0

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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You might be wondering “how could a cloudy car headlight cause so much damage?” It’s simple! When the polycarbonate plastic cover of the headlights deteriorates and becomes cloudy, the beam emitting from the car’s headlight bulbs would not be able to illuminate at full capacity thereby reducing the driver’s field of vision. With this 20 to 40% beam illuminating from the headlights, driving on dark roads at high speed can easily become a deadly event.

In the same vein, when a driver makes an improper use of the high beams when there is oncoming traffic, especially on a two way lane, it can disrupt the other driver’s vision and might lead to a collision. Although one of the ways to avoid bright blinding headlights is by looking away from oncoming traffic, this act can be dangerous if care isn’t taken. This is because it is unsafe to look away from the road especially at high speed. It is even more dangerous to look away from the road when you are driving in an area where there are a lot of animals. 

Damaged headlights, reckless high beam usage, and cloudy headlights have all in many scenarios proven to be dangerous. Aside from the accidents they can cause, the driver can also be held liable should an accident occur as a result of improper headlight use at night. This is why we also recommend that you change your car’s headlights when the bulbs become dim. If the bulbs are fine, then you should take your car to your repair shop for the wiring to be checked. Carry out a regular car maintenance routine and don’t wait for your vehicle to break down before you detect an issue. 

Thanks to the On-board diagnostics (OBD) function on many modern automatic cars that provide vehicle self-diagnosis and reporting capabilities for repair technicians, you can find out what’s wrong with your car before it becomes a major issue. For cloudy headlights, yellowish discoloration, or foggy headlights, the solution is simple! Make use of a headlight restoration kit to wipe your headlights so they can become clear enough for your beams to illuminate at 100 percent capacity. 

While headlights are most important to use at night so that a driver can be seen by other oncoming drivers and so that the driver can see the road clearly ahead of them, they are also very important during the day. Although the negligence to make use of headlights during the day isn’t a firm basis for liability on the driver should an accident occur, it can help prevent accidents from happening. However, there are certain instances that require a driver by law to make use of their headlights during the day. One of those instances is bad weather conditions. Driving under a heavy downpour, or snowing atmosphere requires that you make use of your headlights to increase your visibility and to alert other road users of your presence on the road. 

When should you make use of your headlights

When should you make use of your headlights

According to the US highway code, “You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced”, the term ‘seriously reduced’ is defined as whenever a driver is unable to clearly see over a 100m ahead of them. This means your car headlights are supposed to be functioning at night time, during bad weather, or about 30 minutes before dawn.   

Extreme weather conditions

Car accidents as a result of poor visibility can stem from various factors including bad weather conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow, freezing rain, sleet, or smoke. Visibility is also impeded during dawn and dusk. This is because the human eye doesn’t adjust rapidly to changing light and darkness especially in old people. Extreme weather conditions like fog cause over 31,000 car accidents a year and that’s because driving under these atmospheres reduces visibility to as little as quarter of a mile ahead.  

While extreme weather conditions are dangerous enough to drive in, drivers negligence is what actually causes an accident to happen. If all motorists would be conscious of their car’s headlights, and make use of their headlights properly during extreme weather conditions, the number of car accidents would reduce. Thus, reducing the number of fatality associated with motor vehicle accidents.

To inform other drivers  of your presence on the road

Another scenario where you should make use of your headlights is when driving through curved, rural, or mountain roads. This is because the beam emitting from your headlights can be used as a caution to inform other drivers on the road of your presence by countering the limited visibility brought about by sharp bends, narrow roads, or uneven terrain. The headlights also help other oncoming drivers to pinpoint your location on the road from a distance so they can easily navigate to avoid collisions. 

Additionally, flashing your headlights under certain situations can help you regain the attention of another driver who might be distracted and not aware of your presence. However, before you go on flashing your car headlights, learn the meaning of each headlight signal so as not to confuse the driver whom you are flashing at. Proper headlight usage goes beyond trying out new headlight stunts as advertised on YouTube! Not every road user understands some technical headlight usage. So only use your headlights as stated in the US. Headlight laws so as not to endanger your life or the lives of other road users around you. 

Nighttime or when visibility is less than 500 feet ahead

I believe as a driver it’s common sense that our car headlights should be on when driving at night. I mean if it isn’t on, how then can we see the road? But do you know that even though you can see the road, probably you are driving in an area where there are street lights, you still need to keep your headlights on especially when you can’t see over 500 feet ahead of your car. Nighttime automatically reduces about 50% of motorists visibility and driving function. 

No matter how good a driver you are, driving at night with your headlights on is crucial to ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers, the safety of pedestrians, and that of other motorists on the road. While damaged headlights are the cause of over 30% of road accidents, 70% of these accidents happen at night. So, it’s mandatory for a driver whose headlights are too bright to dim theirs when an oncoming Motor Vehicle is within 500-700 feet. 

How does having good headlights reduce car accidents at night

How does having good headlights reduce car accidents at night

According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), improved headlights encouraged by the institute’s headlight rating program are reducing motor vehicle crashes in the real world. 

The study further stipulated a 20 percent decrease in nighttime car accident rates per mile for vehicles with great headlights compared to those with poor headlight beams. Furthermore, for vehicles with marginal headlights, the study found a 15 to 10 percent decrease in crash rates compared to those vehicles with cloudy headlights or dimmed headlight beams. The interpretation of this study clearly shows that having great and well-functioning headlights truly reduces the risk of being involved in a collision or road traffic accidents with pedestrians. 

Matthew Brumbelow; the senior research engineer who conducted the IIHS research says “driving at night is 3 times riskier than driving during the day.” This is true as over 50% of motor vehicle accidents happen at night. So, it’s pretty clear how much difference a good headlight that provides better illumination can make in our society as a whole. These reductions show that the federal headlight regulations which haven’t significantly changed since 1968, aren’t strict enough for a real change to occur. 

While the federal standard for car headlights specifies a certain minimum and maximum brightness levels for headlights at various angles. Its focus was on car headlights itself without considering how well the headlights are aimed upon installation on a particular vehicle or how newer technologies such as bendable car headlights, curve-adaptive, or Laser headlights may influence driving experience when the vehicle is moving.

In contrast to the Federal Standard headlight evaluation model, IIHS makes use of vehicles driven on a test track to conduct its evaluations. Its ratings for a good car headlight is based on how far the high and low beams illuminate the path to 5 lux on straightways and curves while traveling at 35 to 50 mph. The test didn’t neglect glares that can temporarily blind oncoming drivers as points were deducted for glaring headlights. 

Good rated headlights

Good rated headlights

Poor rated headlights

Poor rated headlights

Performance for different types of car headlights varies greatly. For low-beam illumination, the IIHS evaluation ranges from 125 to 460 feet for a driver traveling at  50 mph. That means a difference of 2 seconds versus 6 seconds to recognize a potential hazard and respond by braking or steering. The results from the evaluation showed a reduction in car crashes by up to 5.7 percent of two-car collisions, and more significant reductions in accidents involving motorcycles and vehicles, including pedestrians. 

The core reason for this reduction in accident rates is entirely due to the increased visibility made possible by good and well-functioning car headlight bulbs, clear headlight lenses, aligned headlight housing, and  well aimed bulbs. With all these in place, motorists and pedestrians are more likely to see vehicles that have their headlights on both during the day and night.  

What Should You Do If You Have a Poor or Damaged Headlight

What Should You Do If You Have a Poor or Damaged Headlight

In a bid to further help curb the seemingly consistent rise in car accidents, if your car’s headlights appear dim, foggy, oxidized, or cloudy, follow the simple steps below to fix them and restore the full beam capacity of your headlights. 

Step 1: Prepare your headlights for restoration

Before you start the restoration process to remove haziness or fog from your car’s headlight lenses, the first step is to prepare your car’s headlight by making sure the surface of the headlight lenses are cool, dry, and clean. To achieve this, clean your car’s headlight with a damp microfiber towel, dry very well, get the Clear Light Tech Headlight Restoration Kit, and wipe the lenses with the first wipe inside the pack as directed by the user manual. 

Step 2: Restore with headlight restoration kit

Once you have wiped the headlight lenses with the first wipe in the Clear Light Tech pack, the dirt, grits, and haziness on your headlight lenses will begin to fall off. Use the second wipe for a more in-depth clean. The solution on the second wipe is stronger and would not only smoothen the surface of the headlight lenses but would also remove stubborn dirts and discoloration that has built up over the month. 

Step 3: Clean to clear coat solution 

The last step in the headlight restoration process is to apply a clear coat. Clear coats are mandatory if you would love your newly polished headlight lenses to last longer before being affected again by UV rays. To apply a clear coat using the Clear Light Headlight Restoration kit (CLT), use the clear coat infused in the last wipe in the pack and wipe each headlight lense simultaneously. When you are done, avoid getting the headlight wet for at least 30 minutes, and do not wash the car for at least 24 hours.

Clear Light Tech Headlight restoration products are now made available in almost every local store. However, if you can’t find it at your local car accessories store, you can Buy Now through our website for as low as $10 per pack. 

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