PROBLEM: Most pedestrian fatalities occur at night. Although researchers have long understood that drivers have difficulty seeing pedestrians at night and that reflective clothing can dramatically enhance pedestrian conspicuity, the extent to which pedestrians understand these facts is unclear. This experiment quantified pedestrians' estimates of the ability of an approaching driver to recognize the presence of roadside pedestrians. METHOD: Ten younger and 10 older participants walked in place on the far shoulder of a closed-road circuit and pressed a button when they were confident that the approaching driver could first recognize that a pedestrian was present. RESULTS: Pedestrians overestimated their visibility and dramatically underestimated the benefit of conspicuity treatments. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that pedestrians fail to understand the magnitude of the nighttime conspicuity problem and the value of conspicuity treatments. Pedestrians may therefore unknowingly place themselves in danger at night. IMPACT: These results underscore the need to educate pedestrians about the dangers of interacting with traffic at night and about treatments that increase their safety
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