Modest Visual Impairments and Headlamp Glare Reduce Pedestrian Visibility at Night

Background: This study investigated the effects of experimentally induced visual impairment, headlamp glare and clothing on pedestrian visibility. Methods: 28 young adults (M=27.6±4.7 yrs) drove around a closed road circuit at night while pedestrians walked in place at the roadside. Pedestrians wore either black clothing, black clothing with a rectangular vest consisting of 1325 cm2 of retroreflective tape, or the same amount of tape positioned on the extremities in a configuration that conveyed biological motion (“biomotion”). Visual impairment was induced by goggles containing either blurring lenses, simulated cataracts, or clear lenses; visual acuity for the cataract and blurred lens conditions was matched. Drivers pressed a response pad when they first recognized that a pedestrian was present. Sixteen participants drove around the circuit in the presence of headlamp glare while twelve drove without glare. Results: Visual impairment, headlamp glare and pedestrian clothing all significantly affected drivers’ ability to recognize pedestrians (p<0.05). The simulated cataracts were more disruptive than blur, even though acuity was matched across the two manipulations. Pedestrians were recognized more often and at longer distances when they wore “biomotion” clothing than either the vest or black clothing, even in the presence of visual impairment and glare. Conclusions: Drivers’ ability to see and respond to pedestrians at night is degraded by modest visual impairments even when vision meets driver licensing requirements; glare further exacerbates these effects. Clothing that includes retroreflective tape in a biological motion configuration is relatively robust to visual impairment and glare.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: DVD
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: 10p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 89th Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers DVD

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01151040
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 10-1815
  • Files: BTRIS, TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Jan 25 2010 10:50AM