While only 25 percent of driving is done when it’s dark outside, 50 percent of crashes occur when the sun is down. One of the culprits—your headlights.

Many drivers aren’t getting the most from their headlights, whether through improper use or falling short on maintenance, according to a survey from AAA. Here are three ways to help you keep an eye out for your headlights.

1. Use your high beams

Improving your nighttime visibility is as simple as flicking a switch—literally. High-beam settings on halogen headlights can improve your sight distance by 28 percent, according to the AAA study. Despite the added visibility that high-beams offer, particularly on unlit roads, a survey also found that only a third of Americans admit to using these settings regularly. When driving at night on an unlit road, AAA recommends you use high beams whenever possible—but never when there’s oncoming traffic.

2. Stay at a safe distance

Even with the high beams on, headlights may only provide enough light to safely stop at speeds of up to 48 mph in real-world conditions, leaving drivers vulnerable at highway speeds.

That’s partly a problem with automakers. The same AAA study compared the performance of halogen, HID and LED headlights. Halogen headlights, found in over 80 percent of vehicles on the road today, may fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph.

So put even more room between yourself and the cars in front of you, and drive at a safe speed.

3. Keep your headlights clean


Even with the best technology, your headlights might not be lighting the way as well as they could. Years of UV rays can cause oxidation and wear down the protective coating on the lenses, causing them to absorb more blue light and emit a weaker, yellowish light. Other potential issues like road damage, dirt, and chemical residue and water vapor trapped inside the headlight can also cause visibility problems.

Restoring old headlights can double the maximum light intensity and reduce glare-producing light scatter by up to 60 percent. Yet, only 20 percent of Americans have performed this service.

You can clean your headlights using this tutorial, but if there’s no significant improvement after cleaning, or your beams appear to be throwing light in two different directions, take them to a professional.

How to further protect your headlights

There are also a few simple things you can do to keep your headlights in optimal working condition. After all, they’re working hard to keep you safe on the road.

  • When possible, park in covered areas.
  • Park your headlights away from the sun.
  • Wash your car with automotive soap to prevent the buildup of dirt and other toxins.

Get Help With Your Cloudy Headlights

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