Standard Measures of Visual Acuity Do Not Predict Drivers' Recognition Performance Under Day or Night Conditions

This article reports on a study that investigated whether visual acuity or contrast sensitivity, measured under a range of light conditions, could predict drivers' recognition performance under real-world day and night road conditions. The study included 24 participants, comprising three age groups (young, mean = 21.5 years; middle-aged, mean = 46.6 years; and older, mean = 71.9 years), who drove around a 1.8 km closed road circuit under 5 different day and nighttime conditions. Drivers were asked to report relevant targets, including road signs, large low-contrast road obstacles, and pedestrians who wore retroreflective markings on either the torso or the limb joints. Real-world recognition performance was measured as percent correct recognition and, in the case of low-contrast road obstacles, avoided. Results showed that real-world recognition performance of all age groups was significantly degraded under low light conditions, and this impairment was greater for the older participants. These changes in drivers' recognition performance were more strongly predicted by contrast sensitivity than visual acuity. Interestingly, contrast sensitivity was highly correlated with visual acuity measured under low-luminance conditions. The authors conclude that the best prediction of recognition performance while driving is achieved by combinations of two tests: either photopic visual acuity and photopic contrast sensitivity; or photopic and mesopic visual acuity. The authors briefly discuss the implications of these findings for driver licensing standards.

  • Availability:
  • Authors:
    • Wood, Joanne M
    • Owens, D Alfred
  • Publication Date: 2005-8


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01010559
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 26 2005 7:16AM