Conference Proceeding

The Accuracy of Drivers’ Judgments of the Effects of Headlight Glare: Are We
Really Blinded by the Light?

  • Stacy Balk (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)
  • Richard Tyrrell (Clemson University, Clemson, SC)


Headlights must balance two conflicting goals: maximizing visibility for the driver and minimizing glare to other drivers. Yet consumer complaints about headlights tend to focus on glare and not on poor visibility – a known casual factor of nighttime roadway crashes. These reactions may help to explain why drivers tend to underuse high beam headlights. This study explored the relationships among objective (impaired visual performance) and subjective (reports of discomfort and participants’ judgments of glare-induced visual impairments) consequences of headlight glare. Sixteen participants sat in a vehicle that moved slowly on a closed road and estimated the distance at which they could determine the orientation of a retroreflective Landolt C. Actual recognition distances and reports of glare-induced discomfort were also assessed. Observers’ overestimated the extent to which glare degraded their ability to see the target. Participants’ estimates of their own acuity decreased significantly when the opposing vehicle used high beams despite the fact that their actual acuity was unaffected. Overall, estimates of the disabling effects of glare were more tightly correlated with subjective reports of glare-induced discomfort than with actual visual performance. These results, which are consistent with psychophysical data obtained in a laboratory setting, may help explain drivers’ reluctance to use their high beams. The results also underscore the need to collect data on disability glare, not only discomfort glare, when evaluating new lighting technologies.

How to Cite:

Balk, S. & Tyrrell, R., (2011) “The Accuracy of Drivers’ Judgments of the Effects of Headlight Glare: Are We
Really Blinded by the Light?”, Driving Assessment Conference 6(2011), 510-517. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2011 the author(s)

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Published on
30 Jun 2011
Peer Reviewed