“Few vehicles have headlights that do their job well.” That is the verdict of the top group that judges how safe our cars really are.

Over the past few years, the organization has taken an increasingly close look at headlights and other features, such as pedestrian-detection systems, designed to protect the life and limbs of people outside the car, not just those on the inside.

A lot of people keep a close watch on IIHS decisions

You may recognize the Top Safety Pick awards of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) from car commercials. Those commercials give no hint that a lot of people have a lot riding on those awards and those bragging rights.

For example, many consumers love the idea of putting themselves or their kids into one of the safest cars available.

Advertisers know it, and if a car company’s vehicles qualify for IIHS awards, they want you to know about it. If they do not qualify, many carmakers want their designers to focus on getting on the list.

Insurance companies use the extensive tests done by y the IIHS to understand the safety of cars on the road and their risk of payouts for damaged autos as well as injuries and deaths to humans. In fact, as its name suggests, the insurance industry founded and still funds the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Good headlights must be standard equipment

The IIHS president discourages consumers from trying to boost the performance of their headlights by buying led kits for their cars.

He says car companies need to design the rest of the car to accommodate its headlights. Otherwise, they can do more harm than good by, for example, blinding drivers in oncoming traffic. There is no substitute for qualified engineers to take the headlights more seriously more often.

The IIHS hopes to help make this happen by giving (or not giving) its top safety picks based in part on how well the automakers design safety into the car from the start.