Conference Proceeding

How Well Do Drivers Understand Their Own Headlights?

  • Johnell O Brooks (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • C Raymond Goodenough (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Richard A Tyrrell (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Chris Guirl (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Kristin Moore (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Nathan Klein (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Laura Davis (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Tina Kubala (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)


The current research represents an initial investigation of drivers’ understanding of high beam and low beam headlight patterns in a nighttime driving environment. Fifty-four university students used a highlighter to indicate on a paper diagram of a roadway scene the portion of the scene that they felt their headlights would illuminate. Although the headlight patterns produced by participants varied more than expected, several consistent patterns emerged. Classification and evaluation of these drivers’ responses revealed that many drivers misunderstand the area of the roadway that is illuminated by their headlights. These misunderstandings fall into fairly distinct patterns. The results indicate many drivers possess an incomplete understanding of the pattern of illumination provided by their headlights. These results are consistent with earlier evidence that many road users fail to appreciate the visibility challenges that exist at night.

How to Cite:

Brooks, J. & Goodenough, C. & Tyrrell, R. & Guirl, C. & Moore, K. & Klein, N. & Davis, L. & Kubala, T., (2009) “How Well Do Drivers Understand Their Own Headlights?”, Driving Assessment Conference 5(2009), 384-390. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2009 the author(s)

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Published on
24 Jun 2009
Peer Reviewed