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So many dangers exist in the necessary travel every day on the roads. Eliminating as many as possible is vital.

As much as wearing seat belts, avoiding distractions and not speeding are priorities, there are less-known steps necessary to improve safety. Ensuring the ability to see well is one.

New researh from AAA reveals that clouded or yellowed headlights generate only 20 percent of the amount of light that new headlights do, leading to dangerous nighttime driving conditions.

“This information is so important,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “If you are driving on a poorly lit highway and your headlights are only giving off 20 percent of light, you are vulnerable to unforeseen collisions.”

Most headlights are made of plastic and exposure to sunlight breaks down the plastic coating, causing discoloration that obscures the amount of light produced. Depending on where and how the vehicle is used, headlights can begin showing signs of deterioration as early as three years to five years.

With 50 percent of crashes occurring at night, AAA urges drivers to check their headlights for signs of deterioration and invest in new headlights or, at a minimum, a low-cost service to boost the safety of driving after dark.

AAA broke down the findings for the best options if your headlights are deteriorating:

  • Replacing headlights with original equipment manufacturer parts is the most effective method to restore light output back to 100 percent.
  • Aftermarket parts also performed well, restoring light output between 83 and 90 percent, however these did fail to meet certain requirements for light intensity and were found to be more likely to produce glare for oncoming traffic.
  • Restoring headlights, while the most cost effective option, offered less of an improvement in light output than replacement.
  • Professional and DIY restoration returned light output back to approximately 70 percent. Both restoration methods, however, produced more glare than is acceptable according DOT criteria.

Unlike with batteries or tires, most drivers are not in the habit of routinely inspecting their headlights. It’s time for that to change.

Make AAA’s suggestion a priority: Check headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding and if the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lenses replaced or restored as soon as possible.

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