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Contact:   Rebekah Mullaney
Lighting Research Center
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mullar2@rpi.edu
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Troy, N.Y. -  7/24/2006

Researchers Examine How Headlight Glare May Affect Driving Behaviors and Roadway Safety

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) has demonstrated that headlight glare may increase driver discomfort and result in poor visibility. Now, through a two-year, $890,012 award from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), LRC scientists will further their work in this field. The LRC will examine the causes and effects of headlamp glare and develop technological solutions through advanced forward lighting systems designed to meet performance requirements while minimizing unnecessary glare.

“Recent headlamp technologies are presenting new oncoming appearances for drivers, which have resulted in increased complaints of glare to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration,” said Mark Rea, Ph.D., LRC director. “To help assess the issue, the LRC is conducting research to examine the intensity, color, and size of oncoming headlamps and determine the effects of these parameters on visibility, as well as impressions of visual discomfort.”

Some drivers may experience problems with visual re-adaptation—the ability of the eyes to recover their sensitivity to see objects after being exposed to glare. According to Rea, glare can be deceiving. A driver’s visibility may be impaired by glare without the driver experiencing discomfort.

New headlamp systems presently promoted by lighting and vehicle manufacturers claim to provide drivers with additional visibility under certain driving scenarios. However, there are still many unanswered questions regarding how these new technologies relate to visibility, glare, driver behavior, and safety, according to the LRC research team now delving into these issues.

As the LRC scientists move ahead in their research, the team plans to outline what new aspects of headlamp systems should be further examined. The results of the research will be reported to Congress as part of the requirements of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), signed into law August 10, 2005, by President Bush.

SAFETEA-LU legislation addresses the many challenges facing the nation’s transportation system today—improving safety, reducing traffic congestion, improving efficiency in freight movement, increasing intermodal connectivity, and protecting the environment—as well as laying the groundwork for addressing future challenges. For more information about SAFETEA-LU, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/legis.htm.

LRC’s research award will be administered through Westat, Inc., a contract research organization serving agencies of the U.S. government, as well as businesses, foundations, and state and local governments.

The Transportation Lighting Group at the LRC is committed to exploring lighting and visibility issues associated with transportation. The group examines roadway visibility by considering vehicle lighting, fixed roadway lighting, and signal and marking devices separately and as an interactive system. Visit the LRC’s Transportation Lighting Web site at www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/transportation for more information on the group and its research.

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC has been pioneering research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, and energy efficiency for nearly 30 years. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. LRC researchers conduct independent, third-party testing of lighting products in the LRC's state of the art photometric laboratories, the only university lighting laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP Lab Code: 200480-0). In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.”