AAA Oklahoma offers safety precautions for driving in the dark, protecting pedestrians as safer headlights continue to be developed

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The folks at AAA Oklahoma say new cars will have safer headlights in two years, and they’re giving drivers tips on how to drive safer at night.

Seventy-five percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night, according to AAA Oklahoma.

Eighty-six pedestrians died and 143 others were seriously injured in the 682 pedestrian crashes in Oklahoma in 2020, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

“Driving after dark results in the highest fatality rate for drivers and pedestrians,” says AAA Oklahoma spokesperson Leslie Gamble. “Given the sharp increase in fatalities on American roads – especially pedestrian fatalities – the updated headlight standards will literally be a life-saving improvement.”

A police car stops a vehicle at night. (Credit: Getty Creative)

The halogen headlights of most U.S. vehicles do not safely illuminate unlit roads at speeds over 40 mph, according to a study by AAA Automotive Engineering.

“These headlights don’t give drivers enough time to see, react and brake to avoid a pedestrian or an object on the roadway,” AAA staff said.

New cars made in two years will feature adaptive high beams that increase roadway illumination by up to 86% compared to low beams equipped on vehicles, according to AAA.

Until the new, improved headlights are implemented, AAA recommends the following precautions for drivers:

  • If your car’s headlight lenses are anything but crystal clear, have them restored or replaced to improve light output.
  • Unlike batteries or tires, most drivers don’t routinely inspect their headlights. AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding. If the bulb is hard to see, it’s time to replace or restore the lenses as soon as possible. At three to five years of age, vehicles may begin to show signs of headlight deterioration. With the average age of a car on US roads now at 12.1 years, many are driving without the best lighting available.
  • Headlight restoration, although the most cost effective option, offers less improvement in light output than replacement. Professional and DIY restoration brought the light output down to about 70% in AAA research.
  • Replacing the headlights with genuine equipment manufacturer parts is the most effective method to restore light output to 100%. The spares also performed well, restoring light output to between 83-90%.
  • AAA recommends replacement as it provides the greatest improvement in the amount of light produced. Replacement and restoration services are provided at AAA Automotive Service Centers in Central Oklahoma and at AAA Authorized Automotive Repair Shops statewide.
  • When driving after dark on unlit roads, use high beams whenever possible. There is a difference between seeing road markings, signs and other vehicles and being able to perceive a non-reflective object in your path. AAA research found that a majority of Americans (64%) do not regularly use their high beams. High beam improves forward illumination by 28% and is much more efficient at providing the right amount of light when traveling at higher speeds.
  • Monitor and adjust driving speeds when driving on unlit roads at night to allow enough time to sense, react, and stop the vehicle to avoid hitting a pedestrian, animal, or object on the roadway.

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Susan W. Lloyd