Perceptual Problems Driving at Night and PossibleSolutions

Taylore Sloan

A handout created for PSY 440 (Perception) field trip to a middleschool
Stephen F. Austin State University


I. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportsthat more than half of the fatalities involved in car wrecks eachyear occur at night!

A. Drivers in nighttime conditions have a reduced abilityto see clearly, distinguish objects, and judge distance.

B. Perceptual factors associated with night driving canlead to small problems such as missing a road sign and becoming lost,running over debris in the road and blowing out a tire, to lifealtering situations such as harming another person in an accident oreven a fatal crash.


II. Research in the field of nighttime driving and safetyissues has determined many highly common and very serious risksinvolved.

A. Darkness

1. At night you see by using rod receptors in the eye. When theyare used in dark conditions you lose ability to see detail and judgemotion.

B. Glare

1. When driving down a significantly dark stretch of roadway yourperceptual system begins to adapt to the nighttime darkness.

2. Your adapted vision to the dark environment is suddenly blindedby the headlights of the oncoming car. Bright headlights cansignificantly impair a driver's vision, temporarily blinding thedriver and causing a serious accident.

C. Color

1. Visibility of road signs and markings at night are much lowerthan in daytime conditions.

2. Fluorescent materials, which are often added to road signs orhighway markings make them more visible because extra light pigmentsreflect off the retina.

3. These extra light pigments allow for the perception of colorand detail and are a tremendous aid in nighttime driving.

III. Possible Solutions

A. The auto industry is investing large sums of money invision enhancement systems.

1. These systems have been designed to assist drivers in detectinghazards, recognizing oncoming vehicles and pedestrians, and readingroad signs in low visibility situations.


B. Eyewear designers have developed anti-glare technologyfor nighttime driving.

1. The anti-reflection coating protects against glare caused bythe lights' reflection of off the front and back surfaces of thelens.

2. An even simpler approach to solving the glare problem iskeeping your car windshield clean.


C. Night vision technology in new automobiles

1. Night vision technology has been used by the United Statesmilitary in military vehicles for years in order to keep driversaware of obstacles.

2. This technology is being developed civilian automobiles andwill soon be equipped in many cars to make night driving safer for usall.

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