Each year cars hit and kill more than 4,000 pedestrians, and tens of thousands more are injured. Those accidents mostly happen at night, when drivers have limited vision. During evening hours pedestrians are tough to spot, even with your headlights on.
Consumer Reports’ auto engineers regularly test headlights and know their limitations. Even with the best-performing headlights, the driver probably doesn’t have enough time to see, react, and brake for pedestrians or objects ahead, unless driving very slowly.
The latest night-vision systems help remedy that with advanced infrared cameras that detect thermal heat and make visible what your eyes can’t see. The system is available on the latest BMW 7 Series and other luxury cars.
If it determines that a person or animal is too close or moving toward your line of travel, it will also give you visual and audio warnings. The system worked well in Consumer Reports’ evaluations at its test track and would be helpful on dark or foggy roads.
The engineers also checked out another system: Dynamic Light Spot. It not only uses infrared technology to detect people or animals but also shines a spotlight. The auto engineers who had the opportunity to drive the Dynamic Light Spot thought it worked very well. It illuminated pedestrians before they were even able to see them.
The system is currently available in Europe and Asia, but at this point it’s not permitted in the U.S. Current regulations limit how bright lights can be and prohibits lights that might be confused with emergency vehicles.
Consumer Reports says be aware that headlights can get hazy and cloudy over time and reduce visibility by up to 80 percent. Consumer Reports says using a headlight cleaner can help. A good choice is the Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit, available online and in auto-parts stores for about $21.