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The beach beckons. As the weather improves folks on the North Shore from Lynnfield, Saugus, Lynn, Danvers and all around, start to look to spend time at the beach, including Cranes Beach in Ipswich, Long Beach in Gloucester, Lynch Beach in Beverly or maybe Salisbury Beach or Revere Beach.  After a day down the shore it is common to start driving home as the sun is setting.   One important safety factor when driving after sunset is good clear operating headlights. Nearly half of all traffic deaths occur in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, thus the importance of upgraded headlights is clear and has the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mAs headlights have progressed over the years, drivers are now able to change their headlights to help with glare and better visibility in general.  There are two main styles of headlights on the market right now.  The older design is a reflector style lamp which has a large reflective surface in the back lining of the headlight.  The reflective disk emits the light forward in a pattern to light up the road ahead but not blind oncoming cares.  The newer headlights have projector style lamps where a focus lens is at the front of the lamp, the bulb is located in the rear of the lens unit and the light is transmitted forward to the lens to create and direct the beam’s pattern.  Retrofit kits offering high intensity discharge lamps to replace the older style are now available. These kits are relatively inexpensive, but once installed in a reflector style headlight they create an unfocused light that often throws light patterns too high and wide and may result in a safety risk to oncoming drivers.

Government standards for headlights allow a huge variation in the amount of illumination they provide. For example, the Prius V headlights earn a good visibility rating when the car is equipped with LED lights and high-beam assist.  However, when the Prius V is equipped with regular halogen lights and without high-beam assist, the car earns a poor rating.  The Prius V’s LED lights on average will give a driver traveling 70 miles per hour enough time to avoid an obstacle where a car with halogen head lights would need to drive 20 miles per hour slower to avoid the same obstacle.

Logic suggests that buying an expensive luxury car would get you the best headlights; but that is not necessarily true.  BMW 3, the Cadillac ATS, Kia Optima and Mercedes Benz C-Class all earn poor ratings in the effectiveness of headlights.  Whereas the Honda Accord 4-door received an acceptable rating.  Manufacturers such as Sylvania, Phillips and GE now make brighter than original replacement bulbs for headlights.  So upgrading your headlights could help safety somewhat.

Whatever type of headlight is on your car, there are safety measures you can take to make your headlights better.  Perhaps restore the plastic headlamp lenses every couple of years as the lenses become dirty and cloudy. Old lenses greatly affect the effectiveness of the headlight. And, don’t forget to clean off that winter sand and salt that accumulated from road spray.

The Massachusetts RMV also has rules and guidelines for headlight safety.  A driver must have their headlights on starting a half hour after sunset until a half hour before sunrise, also when weather makes it hard to see, or anytime the driver has trouble seeing other vehicles, and whenever you use your windshield wipers or cannot clearly see people or vehicles 500 feet ahead due to insufficient light or weather conditions.

Before packing for the beach this summer, add in proper safety measures to assure a safe trip, including upgrading and cleaning your headlights.

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