Are Your Headlights Keeping You Safe? It Might be Time for a Change

When we think about customizing our cars, it’s very easy to zero in on performance. Chances are that’s what first comes to mind but consider this – and just fill in the blank: “My car would be so much better if I could make this one modification: ________”

What did you say?

If you said something performance-related, like a suspension or engine upgrade, you’re probably not alone. However, did you consider headlights? It may not be the immediate choice, especially when it’s so easy to define performance in other ways.

It’s imperative to keep yourself and your passengers safe. Just as you change the oil, rotate the tires, and have an auto insurance policy, the same is true of good headlights. It’s one of the best ways to protect your vehicle and its occupants.

Are Your Headlights Safe?

Color temperature, brightness, angle, and even the height of the headlights play a role in how you see and are seen on the road. Consider this: According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, headlights misaligned by even one degree will change how you are seen by other drivers and hinder your ability to see oncoming obstacles. Vehicles more than five years old are twice as likely to have misaligned headlights.

When I was at the dealership, we would regularly take older cars in on trade. Many of them would have yellowed out headlights, a condition known as oxidation. This is pretty easy to spot by simply looking at your headlights. Our detail staff had a process for getting rid of this but be mindful if you are shopping for a pre-owned car.

A trusted mechanic can help you with a headlight inspection. During my time as a Service Advisor, it was standard practice for our technicians at the dealership to check all vehicle lights, especially headlamps.

Acura HIDs

Time For An Upgrade?

If your current headlights are not up to par, SYLVANIA SilverStar® ULTRA headlights are engineered to meet the demands of nighttime driving. It might be time for an upgrade if you are struggling to see at night. These better down road bulbs deliver whiter and brighter light, and reduce glare when compared to BASIC bulbs. This helps drivers identify and react sooner to road hazards like debris, animals, or construction zones. Whiter light also improves contrast, making it easier to distinguish objects on the side of the road, like a stalled vehicle or pedestrian.

While there are many other aftermarket options for headlights, SYLVANIA SilverStar ULTRA would be our preferred choice.

deer in headlights

Real-World Example

Years ago I was traveling up Interstate 29 late at night, coming home after a long week of finals at Iowa Western. That stretch of road is known for deer, raccoons, and other critters. After the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, it becomes quite dark amidst the corn fields. By the time it started to downpour, I was leaning over the wheel, struggling to see. Interestingly enough, I had just put brakes on my vehicle but didn’t think how my headlights would have factored in.

According to a study by the University of Iowa, a 20 to 50 percent reduction in headlight output leads to a 90 percent increase in the possibility of an accident occurring. This runs in line with a Carnegie Mellon study showing nearly half of all accidents occur at night, despite 25 percent less traffic on the road.


Headlights are vital when it comes to proper vehicle maintenance because they are your first line of defense. Every second counts behind the wheel, and if you can’t see, you can’t react. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 9 out of every 10 cars on the road have dirty, yellowed, or otherwise inadequate headlights. Their findings ultimately show many drivers are taking an unnecessary risk.

Based on that statistic, there is a good chance you are at risk.

If you can’t remember the last time you changed your headlights, now is a good time to upgrade to better down road headlights. SYLVANIA SilverStar ULTRA headlights are one of the easiest solutions to improve your safety and increase your visibility for the road ahead, regardless of where it leads.

Ford F-150

Other Headlight Facts & Considerations

  • Some automobiles today feature adaptive headlights.
  • HID lights are a double edged sword. HIDs may be great for a driver but to an oncoming motorist, not so much. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found 1 in 5 people with HID lights received a high beam flash from an oncoming motorist. HIDs emit twice the light of a halogen bulb, due to their design.
  • Be aware of those who sell fake HID lights. These knockoffs use a regular halogen bulb with a dash of blue tint to make them look like an HID. Some of these imitation products may even use “Xenon” in the name.
  • Get your eyes checked. The American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam every two years for those under 60, and annually for those over 60. The older a driver is, the longer it takes them to recover from oncoming headlight glare.
  • Contrary to what Corey Hart said in his hit song, DO NOT wear sunglasses at night. Many eye care professionals can recommend anti-reflective coatings if driving at night with oncoming traffic is problematic for you.
  • When stopping for gas, give your headlights a wipe down. Even the smallest layer of road grime can dramatically reduce the performance of your headlights.