Effects of Intersection Lighting Design on Driver Visual Performance, Perceived Visibility, and Glare

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Virginia Tech


Nighttime intersection crashes account for nearly half of all the intersection crashes, making them a major traffic safety concern. Although providing lighting at intersections has proven to be a successful countermeasure against these crashes, existing approaches to designing lighting at intersections are overly simplified. Current standards are based on recommending lighting levels, but do not account for the role of human vision or vehicle headlamps or the numerous pedestrian-vehicle conflict locations at intersections. For effective intersection lighting design, empirical evidence is required regarding the effects of lighting configuration (part of the intersection illuminated) and lighting levels on nighttime visibility. This research effort had three goals. The first was to identify an intersection lighting design that results in the best nighttime visibility. The second goal was to determine the effect of illuminance on visual performance at intersections. The third goal was to understand the relationships between object luminance, contrast, and visibility. To achieve these goals, three specific configurations were used, that illuminated the intersection approach (Approach), intersection box (Box), and both the intersection approach and box (Both). Each lighting configuration was evaluated under five levels of illumination. Visibility was assessed both objectively (visual performance) and subjectively (perceptions of visibility and glare).

Illuminating the intersection box led to superior visual performance, higher perceived visibility, and lower perceived glare. For this same configuration, plateaus in visual performance and perceived visibility occurred between 8 and 12 lux illuminance levels. A photometric analysis revealed that the Box lighting configuration rendered targets in sufficient positive and negative contrasts to result in higher nighttime visibility. Negatively contrast targets aided visual performance, while for targets rendered in positive contrast visual performance was dependent on the magnitude of the contrast. The relationship between pedestrian contrast and perceived pedestrian visibility was more complex, as pedestrians were often rendered in multiple contrast polarities. These results indicate that Box illumination is an effective strategy to enhance nighttime visual performance and perceptions of visibility while reducing glare, and which may be an energy efficient solution as it requires fewer luminaires.



Intersection Lighting Design, Visual Performance, Visibility, Intersection Safety, Glare