Night driving: effects of glare from vehicle headlights on motion perception

Stephen J. Anderson, Ian E. Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elderly drivers often experience disability glare at night from the headlights of oncoming vehicles. To assess the effect of glare from vehicle headlights on visual performance for seeing moving targets, experiments were performed at night on a dimly lit road with observers seated in a stationary motor car viewing a computer-generated stimulus display at a distance of 23 m (the stopping distance for 50 kph). The display was set 2 m to the side of a second stationary car whose position on the road was that of an oncoming vehicle with respect to the observer. The headlights of the observer's car were on low-beam while those of those of the opposing car were switched off (contro condition), on lpw-beam or on high-beam. Experiments were performed using mean display luminances of 50 cd/m2 and 0.5 cd/m2. Spatial contrast sensitivity functions for the directional discrimination of drifting (8 Hz sinusoidal gratings were measured using three different viewing conditions: normal vision (binocular visual acuity (BVA) = 6/6); blurred vision (BVA = 6/9-); and simulated intraocular lens opacities (BVA = 6/6-). The data were fitted with an exponential function, which was extrapolated to 100% contrast to estimate dynamic visual acuity. The results show that simulated lens opacities, which have little or no effect on standard day time measures of visual acuity, have a marked effect on night-time measures of contrast sensitivity for moving targets. Taking into account the average luminance of objects lit by road lighting, we estimate that high-beam glare reduces maximum contrast sensitivity by an order of magnitude in persons affected by mild lens opacities, giving a dynamic acuity of 1.0 c/deg (6/180 Snellen equivalent) or less. From this and other studies we argue that there is now a strong case for the introduction of vehicle-licensing sight re-testing at regular intervals in the UK. In addition, we suggest that vehicle-licensing authorities consider the feasibility of introducing sight tests under night-time driving conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-551
Number of pages7
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving
  • Cataract
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Discrimination (Psychology)
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Motion Perception
  • Vision Tests
  • Visual Acuity


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