Since I wrote about the problems caused by the automobiles’ high beam headlights in the night, I keep getting more and more reader comments in the emails. The majority states that such an implement was available in some U.S. car models as early as the 1950s, but they weren’t really reliable. This means that the issue started in '50s and hasn’t been solved till the 21st century, a 70-year span.

Indeed, people continue to suffer from the bright lights from the oncoming vehicles. The major problem today is that automakers have been installing even brighter beams of head lights to benefit the drivers. But what about the drivers who must see the oncoming beam?

Ladies and gentlemen, there are a few major issues we must address. One is the oncoming headlight beam that literally blinds us drivers. Second is that tailgaters who ride hard on our car with the high-beam and literally blind us inside our car. In unfamiliar road ways, the old folks must go slowly, and the locals are impatient. Third is that the population is aging, and the older people have less capable vision, both frontal and peripheral, and suffer greatly from the weakening of muscle coordination to the steering action, as well as braking.

Well, I received an email from Joseph Young, a media relations associate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). I copy his transmission here.

Hi Mr. Asano,

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently started testing vehicle headlights as part of our comprehensive array of safety testing, and for model year 2017 a vehicle must obtain a good or acceptable rating for headlights to receive our highest award of Top Safety Pick+ (in addition to receiving good ratings in crash-worthiness and crash prevention).

Our tests, which are performed on an outdoor test track at night, evaluate both high and low beams on a straightway and various left and right curves. Bonus points go to systems that have high beam assist, a function that automatically detects oncoming vehicles and switches to low-beams. Headlights receive demerits for excessive glare that might blind an oncoming driver. I thought you might be interested in learning more about our research. You can learn about the specific testing protocol at the following link if you’d like to learn more:

About half of fatal crashes in this country occur at night. It’s our hope that our testing continues to prompt manufactures to improve their headlight designs.

Joseph Young, Media Relations Associate:

Honestly speaking, I am rather disappointed in reading this article and the test procedure the institute proposes. In my mind this can be construed as a product of second-rate industrial high-school dropouts (sorry, my joke) or a product of compromise between the powerful automakers and the institute.

The one major and very crucial missing link is people. Yes, never mind how the high beam distributes light. How about how the driver facing the beam sees it? After all, the high-beam/low-beam issue is how the driver of the opposing traffic suffers. So, we must use humans to test it. Without using humans, young and old, this type of standard is useless, other than to pile paperwork on our society.

As we know, aging deteriorates both frontal vision as well as peripheral vision. Unfortunately, aging also deteriorates hearing and muscle coordination. That means in all areas of sensory input and reaction required to drive cars, aging deteriorates sensory precision. The high beam is a killer for the aged. Any headlight standard without human subjects of all ages involved would not stand the test of time.

Furthermore, high beam tailgating from behind is just as dangerous as the one from oncoming car. The high-beam from behind fills the inside of the car and the driver feels helpless as he or she gets awash in the light beam shining in their eyes. The rear-view mirror on the windshield could change angle and reduce glare. But the side-view mirrors on both sides of the car cannot change their angle. Has the IIHS thought about it?

The problem of high-beam/low-beam issues is significant and large in scale. Some of the logical solutions require that all headlights be mounted the height from the ground, which I am positive would get tremendous opposition from the automakers.

I have a concept that would work failure-free to turn the high beam off. But the system I am proposing obviously requires that all cars be equipped with the same system. My idea is for a car to throw a narrow beam of weak radio wave forward about 300 feet, and rearward about 50 feet. We should use the same frequency common to all cars. The oncoming vehicle, when detecting the beam from your auto, would automatically switch off the high beam.

These past two weeks have been very productive in terms of reader comments. One email I received was from Lou Chatel, a retired policeman. He recommends that people should use high beams always except when meeting the opposing traffic.

Herbert Pence wrote in, “I am tired of unlit cars looming up on me on twilight or rainy roads.” How can we turn their headlights on? My proposal could make that happen.

John Maxwell, of Bedford, New Hampshire, wrote to suggest that the older folks tend to forget to shut off the turn signal. He suggests that the beep be made to get louder after a certain set time.

Anyway, the auto high-beam dimming system has been around since the '50s, as many readers emailed. Yet, it hasn’t been actively used for nearly 70 years and just now people have begun to miss it. Some technology applications progress very slowly, don’t they?

Shintaro "Sam" Asano was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the top 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. He lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire with his dog Sophie. You can write to Sam at sasano@americaninventioninstitute