What's your take on "night vision" or Xenon headlights for improved nighttime visibility?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

Do you believe that xenon fog lights or headlights or Cadillac's night vision will help to solve the problem of impaired vision at night (not caused by cataracts)? I am a senior citizen who's having difficulty with roads that are not well-illuminated, such as side roads or country roads. I can see well enough on well-lit major highways or main city streets. Which cars have the best equipment to deal with this problem? My ophthalmologist has no solution. -- Leo

RAY: Unfortunately, there's no magic bullet, Leo. As we get older, our eyesight declines, especially at night. I've certainly noticed it myself.

TOM: I wouldn't count on Cadillac's "night vision." It can supplement distance vision a bit, but it's somewhat gimmicky, and it's certainly no substitute for being able to see the road.

RAY: Xenon headlights help some, as do supplemental driving lights (not fog lights). But if you're at the point where you simply can't see well enough to see potential obstacles, people or pets in the road, it's time to just stop driving at night.

TOM: After all, that's why they invented the early-bird special, Leo. So geezers like you and me could have a three-course meal and drive home in broad daylight, in plenty of time for Peter Jennings.

RAY: I think you'll find that xenon lights provide a whiter, somewhat brighter beam than traditional headlights. You might try a test drive in a car with those. But if you're honest with yourself, and you find yourself uncertain about what's ahead of you at night, you really owe it to yourself (not to mention other drivers and pedestrians) to make other arrangements when you have to go out in the evening. And good for you for recognizing your deficit before you have an accident!

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