Are Old Headlights Safe?
It’s a known fact that headlight bulbs wear out with age and use just like tires, shocks, and brakes. As the bulbs get older, they start to dim, putting less light on the road. This can create serious safety issues at night for all drivers. In spite of the fact that there is five times more traffic during the daytime, statistics show that approximately 65 percent of accidents occur at night or in poor lighting conditions.
The primary reason is usually attributed to poor driver vision caused by reduced light, which at night can be up to 70 percent. Because the human eye is not adapted for nocturnal vision, colors tend to disappear, contrast fades away, and drivers are often blinded by the oncoming light from other vehicles. In essence, nighttime drivers can experience the feeling of shortsightedness and can also lose some depth perception.
According to Ann-Marie Hines, senior marketing manager at Lumileds, a global lighting solutions company and the exclusive supplier of Philips automotive lighting products, the answer is simple. Hines notes, “The filament in a headlight bulb ages with use, time, and exposure to the elements. As a result, it becomes fragile and starts to deteriorate and this causes the light output to diminish. At the end of a typical service life, perhaps two-three years, headlight bulbs will likely be projecting a much shorter and less powerful beam light, than when they were new. From a driver’s point of view this is a critical safety concern.”
This problem becomes even more critical with older drivers. The amount of light that the human eye needs to see properly increases exponentially with age. That means the older drivers get, the more light they need. This is because the lens of the human eye tends to become more opaque with age and reduces the amount of light the eye can receive. At age 40, the average driver may already need twice as much light as a 20 year old. At age 65, that need is dramatically higher. So as the population of licensed drivers 65 years and older increases, the safety issues increase with it. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 36.8 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older on the road in 2013. By 2030, the NHTSA estimates that there will be more than 57 million drivers on the road in this age group.
The easy solution to this dilemma is to just put more light on the road. The best way to do that is to replace your old headlight bulbs with new bulbs and make sure your headlight lenses are clear of any clouding and hazing. Lumileds engineers recommend replacing headlight bulbs after two to three years as a good maintenance practice. They also suggest replacing both headlight bulbs at the same time to ensure a properly lit road ahead and the full benefit of the vehicle’s headlights as originally intended by the carmaker.
You can replace your old bulbs with new standard OE quality replacements and restore your vehicle’s lighting performance to original condition or you can upgrade to newer more advanced technology and get even better light output from your headlights.
Better lighting will improve your vision and visibility at night, and in turn increase your safety and confidence as a driver. Whenever possible, you should consider upgraded headlight bulbs over standard bulbs because they are designed to do a better job of lighting up the road ahead. This not only helps to compensate for having old headlights and older drivers, but can also help improve headlight performance in general.
According to a recent study from the AAA automotive club, the halogen headlights found in more than 80 percent of vehicles on the road today failed to safely illuminate unlit roadways, even when vehicles are moving at speeds as low as 40 miles per hour. A new set of upgrade halogen bulbs might just make a difference in seeing better and being seen.
Hines adds, “Our Philips automotive lighting line features a full range of OE quality replacement and advanced technology upgrade bulbs to meet the needs of practically every registered U.S. vehicle and driver. We have developed an innovative online Bulb Look Up that helps users identify the right headlight, exterior, or interior bulb for a particular vehicle application and tells them where to buy. The Bulb Look Up is available at: www.philipsautolighting.com.
By Jake Spencer, Phillips Automotive