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The IIHS probably thinks your car's headlights suck

In the first ranking of its kind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts mid-size sedan headlights to the test, and the results are surprising...in a bad way.

As with most first-year IIHS tests, there are way more losers than winners.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lives to test new-car equipment to determine how it adds to a car's overall safety. It's a bit of a surprise, then, that it took this long for the IIHS to start testing headlights. But now it is, and initial results are not good.

The group evaluated 31 mid-size vehicles on its testing grounds. Using a special device that measures light from both low and high beams, IIHS tallied scores from five different tests -- straight roads and four different kinds of curves (left and right, gradual and sharp). Headlights were unadjusted after leaving the factory.

Only one car scored Good, the test's top honor -- the Toyota Prius V, equipped with LED headlights and automatic high beams. Eleven cars scored Acceptable, nine were Marginal, and a surprising 10 earned the lowest rating, Poor. One car called out for its exceptionally poor lighting was BMW's 3 Series, equipped with standard halogen lights.

If anything, this new type of test shows that you can't rely on high prices and fancy tech to provide a quality headlight. Cars with high-end, adaptive headlights ended up in the Poor category (the Cadillac ATS, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class), and cars with bare-bones halogen units made it to Acceptable (the Honda Accord).

"If you're having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame," said David Zuby, IIHS' chief research officer, in a statement. It'll be interesting to see how these tests pan out when applied to additional segments.

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