Older drivers are clearly concerned about their problems with road sign and marker legibility, especially in low light. Although it is clear that acuity losses contribute to older drivers' sign-legibility problems, other factors can also affect differences in text-sign effectiveness. To determine if visual aging affects the ability to identify blurred test signs in daytime or nighttime viewing conditions, Experiment 1 compared the photopic and mesopic legibility thresholds of young and old adult observers at three levels of optically induced acuity. For both age groups, legibility was reduced by nighttime luminance and degraded acuity. Surprisingly, older observers were better than younger ones in identifying defocused (optically blurred) text in both daytime and nighttime conditions. In Experiment 2, older observers were also superior to younger ones in identifying defocused standard and spatially matched novel text signs. These findings indicate that older observers' tolerance of optical blur is a generic ability, rather than one explained by familiarity with the low-pass optical profile of specific signs. Consistent with the notion that factors beyond acuity contribute more importantly to text legibility for older than for younger observers, acuity was a stronger predictor of legibility thresholds in the younger group. Actual or potential applications of this research include the need to consider functional acuity in visual screening protocols and the design of text displays, as well as the utilization of compensatory letter-recognition training for older observers or others with diminished acuity.

  • Availability:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This research was supported by a grant to the first author from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (OGP0046593).
  • Corporate Authors:

    Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

    P.O. Box 1369
    Santa Monica, CA  United States  90406-1369
  • Authors:
    • Kline, D W
    • Buck, K
    • Sell, Y
    • Bolan, T L
    • Dewar, R E
  • Publication Date: 1999-9


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: p. 356-364
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00788945
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Contract Numbers: OGP0046593, N000145-95-1-0411, N00014-99-1-0516
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 18 2000 12:00AM