Nighttime Driving Evaluation of Disability and Discomfort Glare from Various Headlamps under Low and High Light Adaptation Levels

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

It has been found that traveling on the roadways at night is an inherently more dangerous task than driving during the daylight hours. Driving is primarily a visual task, and there are certain situations at night in which vision and safety may be compromised. The effects of glare produced by the headlamps of oncoming vehicles have become an interesting problem to many lighting researchers. Depending upon the opposing lighting design (beam distribution and intensity) and the lighting conditions inside the vehicle, oncoming headlamps can be both visually discomforting and disabling to drivers at night. In recent years, the newer High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps have raised some concern because of their increased light output and brighter appearance as opposed to traditional Halogen headlamps. The objective of this study was to evaluate the discomfort and disability glare produced by different oncoming headlamps under two driver light adaptation levels. This study took place on the Smart Road at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. During the Discomfort Glare portion, participants drove an experimental vehicle at 20mph past the oncoming headlamps and were asked to rate their overall discomfort with the subjective deBoer scale. The Disability Glare portion involved drivers detecting a static pedestrian in the roadway while approaching each different set of glare headlamps. It was hypothesized that there would be significant differences in detection distance and discomfort glare rating across the different glare headlamp and adaptation level combinations. It was also hypothesized that age would have a significant effect on detection distance, and the subjective ratings. The results of this study revealed many significant main effects and interactions for the discomfort and disability glare portions. The main effect of glare source was the only significant factor for discomfort glare. The main effects of age, glare source and pedestrian location were all significant for the disability portion. In addition, the interaction of pedestrian location and glare source was also significant. Overall, there was no clear relationship between subjective discomfort ratings and objective disability measures. The conclusions of this research will be valuable to the consumer as well as the manufacturers and designers of future headlamps in revealing how glare can affect drivers on the road at night. This information can help guide new designs to maximize forward visibility while minimizing glare.

Discomfort Glare, Disability Glare, Reflectance, Pedestrian, Nighttime Driving, Adaptation, Glare