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Release: Immediate

UI receives research contract to study enhancement of nighttime driving visibility

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Public Policy Center recently received a four-year, $131,000 contract from the Federal Highway Administration to research and develop new technology to improve nighttime driving visibility.

The project, which is headed by the Virginia Tech Center for Transportation Research, includes participants from the U.S. auto industry, manufacturers of traffic sign and road marking materials, and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Dr. Carole Simmons, UI transportation safety and visibility researcher, will lead the UI team as principal investigator, along with co-principal investigator Daniel McGehee, both of the Human Factors Research Program.

The project is a continuation of research begun in Sweden to improve drivers' nighttime visibility using supplemental, ultraviolet (UV) headlights in combination with fluorescent traffic signs and markings. Because UV light is largely invisible to the human eye, it can be used in a high-beam pattern without causing glare for on-coming drivers. When UV light falls on a fluorescent object, it is absorbed and re-emitted at visible wavelengths, making the object appear brighter. In preliminary tests, prototype fluorescent pavement markings viewed under UV-supplemented headlights were significantly more visible than standard markings. Pedestrian visibility is also improved under UV headlights, due to fluorescent laundry brighteners. UV lighting may also have an advantage in fog and other low visibility conditions.

Under the terms of the federal contract, the research team will conduct additional experimental work, field tests, and demonstration of the UV/fluorescent technology. Economic and market analyses will also be used to determine effective strategies for the use of the technology.