Car Tech We Need: Adaptive Driving Beam Headlights

The U.S. government is considering amending regulations to allow ADB headlights.

oncoming traffic headlight trails bend along a mountain highway at dusk
Headlights can lose up to 78 percent of their output within five years.
Richard Bacon / Shutterstock

We've all been there: You're driving at night, squinting ahead, wishing you had more light to see the road, but you don't switch on your high beams because you don't want to blind oncoming drivers.

About a quarter of all driving in the United States takes place at night, but that's when 52 percent of driver fatalities and 75 percent of pedestrian deaths occur. Limited visibility is a big reason. Yet according to AAA research, 64 percent of American drivers do not regularly use their high beams.

There are ways to make the headlights themselves turn on their high beams when conditions are right. One technology—already available on many cars in the United States—turns on the higher setting automatically when sensors say it's safe to do so, then switches to low when necessary.

An even better alternative, adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights, also adjust as you drive. But rather than switching to low when other vehicles approach, they alter the beam pattern to reduce glare for oncoming drivers without losing any forward lighting. The result: an increase in roadway illumination of up to 86 percent compared to standard lights.

Unfortunately, ADB headlights are available only in Europe and Canada: U.S. regulations require headlights to have separate high and low settings. The federal government is currently considering amending those regulations to allow ADB headlights. AAA stands firmly in favor of that change, for everyone's safety.