A headlight ratings program developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is reducing night-time crashes, according to new research.

Night-time crash rates per mile are nearly 20 percent lower for vehicles with headlights that earn a good rating in the IIHS evaluation, compared with those with poor-rated headlights, the study found.

For vehicles with acceptable or marginal headlights, crash rates are 15 percent and 10 percent lower than for those with poor ratings.

“Driving at night is three times as risky as driving during the day,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow, who conducted the study. “This is the first study to document how much headlights that provide better illumination can help.”

Until 2016, when IIHS launched its headlight ratings program, neither drivers nor researchers had any real way to compare how well different headlights lit up the roadway.

When the headlight ratings program began, the scores did not affect the TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. In 2017, the Institute began requiring that at least one good or acceptable headlight system be available for a vehicle to qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+. From 2020 vehicles have required good or acceptable headlights across all trim levels for TOP SAFETY PICK+ and the availability of at least one good or acceptable headlight system for TOP SAFETY PICK.

“Our awards have been a huge motivator for automakers to improve their headlights,” added Brumbelow.

“Now, with our new study, we have confirmation that these improvements are saving lives.”