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Better Headlights are Critical for Nighttime Roadway Safety

by Laura Zavadil 27. June 2016 11:02

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently conducted its first-ever evaluation of headlight performance.  Government standards allow a wide range of illumination available to the consumer, so the IIHS tested 31 midsized vehicles with available headlight options for a total of 82 vehicle and headlight combinations. 

The IIHS study measured illumination with high beams and low beams on a test track including straightaways, various curved sections, and roadway obstacles.  Only one of the 82 combinations tested – the Toyota Prius v with LED headlights and high beam assist – earned a good rating. About one-third of the midsized cars tested can earn an acceptable rating by upgrading the headlights to the best available on the market, but another one-third cannot be purchased with headlights that rate higher than poor. This could be because some headlights are designed with aesthetics in mind, not illumination.

Headlights are a vital factor in roadway safety. About half of fatalities occur during the night or when lighting is dim such as at dawn or dusk. Better illumination does not correlate to a higher priced vehicle. For example, the IIHS study showed the best available headlights for the Toyota Prius v (rated “good”) illuminate roadway obstacles on the test track much better than the best available headlights for the BMW 3 series (rated “marginal”). Better illumination from headlights allows drivers more time to react and longer braking distances to avoid hitting obstacles in the roadway. Improved headlights could reduce nighttime fatalities by preventing drivers from hitting roadway obstacles such as deer or pedestrians, or from veering off the road by better illuminating curves in the roadway. 

The news release from IIHS and a video with additional information on the recent study can be viewed here.   

Currently there is not a great recommendation to consumers for the best possible headlight illumination. Future studies from IIHS should drive the need to improve headlight design to focus primarily on illumination rather than aesthetics.

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Driver Alert! Recent Updates to Wisconsin’s Traffic Laws

by John Bruggeman 13. June 2016 02:37

Joanna Bush, state traffic signal systems engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), provided an informative presentation at the 2016 Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Traffic Engineering Workshop regarding recent updates to Wisconsin traffic laws. Some have received a lot of publicity over the last year, but there are others you may not be aware of. Updates include:

  • Maximum speed limit on freeways and expressways
  • Rules of the road when a traffic signal goes dark
  • Clear definition of the terms “flashing yellow arrow,” “pavement marking,” and pedestrian traffic signal indications
  • Right-turns on red from the left-most lane when two right-turn lanes are provided
  • Right-of-way in roundabouts for large trucks
  • Use of cell phones in construction zones

Check out Joanna’s presentation here.

Image courtesy of ITE Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Traffic Operations.

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