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Most new cars need better headlights, IIHS finds

Do you think your car’s headlights provide adequate visibility at night or in bad weather conditions? Most likely they don’t. That’s the main conclusion from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) first-ever headlight ratings. 

The Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a “Good” rating. The best available headlights on 11 cars earn an “Acceptable” rating, while nine only reach a “Marginal” rating. 

More troubling, 10 of the vehicles tested can't be purchased with anything other than “Poor”-rated headlights, the IIHS says. And surprisingly, three of them come from luxury brands.

Headlights were evaluated on the track after dark at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. A special device measured the light from both low beams and high beams as the vehicle was driven on five different approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve, and a gradual right curve.

The IIHS engineers then compared the results to those of a hypothetical ideal headlight system and used a scheme of demerits to determine the rating. Results for low beams were weighted more heavily than high beams because they are used more often. 

You can check out the full rankings for midsize-car headlights by visiting the IIHS website.