ARLINGTON, Va. — Drivers of late-model pickup trucks are likely to find themselves squinting into the darkness or temporarily blinding other drivers, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest headlight ratings show.
All four small pickups evaluated are available only with headlights that earn a poor rating. The same goes for 3 out of 7 large pickups. Only one large pickup, the Honda Ridgeline, is available with good-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones.
Pickups are the third vehicle category to be put through the IIHS headlight evaluations. Midsize cars were the first in March, followed by small SUVs in July.
“These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups,” says Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. “As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked.”
IIHS launched its headlight ratings after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving. In the Institute’s evaluations, engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle’s low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers also is measured.
The 11 trucks evaluated have a total of 23 possible headlight combinations. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their poor ratings. A vehicle cannot earn a rating better than marginal if it produces too much glare in any of the five test scenarios.
A bright spot in the ratings is the headlight system on the Ridgeline’s RTL-E and Black Edition trims. The LED projector low beams provide fair to good visibility on most approaches, with inadequate visibility only on the gradual left curve. High-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present, makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams.
The GMC Sierra has acceptable-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating.
The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating. The Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels, while others have poor ones.
The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, is among the poorest performers. Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions. The LED lights also produce unacceptable glare. The high beams on both versions have mostly inadequate visibility too.
The headlights with the worst visibility are on the Chevrolet Colorado. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup’s base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway. In contrast, the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminate to 358 feet.
All the pickups except for the Ridgeline come in both extended cab and crew cab versions, and they share the same headlights. The Ridgeline comes only as a crew cab.
IIHS is incorporating headlights into the criteria for its highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+. To qualify for the 2017 award, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights.