Light and Health Research Center

Light for Transportation Safety

We are a mobile society. The Light for Transportation Safety program evaluates lighting for the promotion of visibility, comfort, safety, and security for vehicles and road networks, airplanes and runways, and the workplace. Even mature technologies like automobile headlights continue to advance in today’s rapidly evolving transportation sector, demanding new approaches for more efficient and effective energy use while meeting increasingly strict demands for safety in transportation and the workplace while reinforcing environmental stewardship. Our approach of bridging science to applications and safety is grounded in the Light and Health Research Center’s comprehensive understanding of the visual system, lighting technologies, measurement of optical radiation, and electricity. It is realized in real-world field evaluations and demonstrations that yield tangible benefits.

Research Areas

Roadway Lighting

Roadway lighting is an important element for improving safety and visual comfort of drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. New technologies offer promise to meet user needs at appropriate times, such as during nighttime to reduce crashes, while minimizing negative consequences such as light pollution and glare. Scientists at the Light and Health Research Center are investigating the balance between safety and environmental impacts of road lighting.

Lighting for Pedestrians

Pedestrians are an especially vulnerable population at night. Lighting needs to increase pedestrian’s nighttime vision, make them feel safe while out at night, and make drivers of approaching vehicles aware of their presence. Lighting can also help encourage pedestrians to use crosswalks and other dedicated facilities for crossing the road. Research at the Center is helping protect the safety and health of pedestrians.

Vehicle Lighting

For many years, vehicle lighting was produced by a handful of standardized incandescent bulbs. Now, vehicle lighting is undergoing a technological revolution with matrix beams, automated and adaptive headlight distributions, and dynamic turn and brake lights. Lighting can also communicate the status and anticipated actions of autonomous vehicles. 

Emergency and Warning Lights

With the development of light emitting diode systems for flashing colored lights, highway maintenance vehicles and emergency service vehicles like police cars, fire engines, and ambulances sometimes create chaotic visual scenes that make emergency workers difficult to see. Researchers at the Center are working to tame this visual chaos and help make first responders safer.

Signs and Signals for Transport

Light is a common medium for communicating information to drivers, pedestrians, pilots, and marine and rail operators. The Center’s researchers investigate the role of color, intensity, and temporal characteristics in communicating clearly. The impact of size, contrast, and other properties on sign legibility and clarity are also studied.

Lighting for Displays and Control Panels

Car dashboards and cockpits of aircraft and other vehicles give critical information to operators about vehicle status and alert them about impending hazards. Scientists at the Center help in the specification of displays and control panels to provide this information clearly without distracting operators from what is happening outside their vehicle.

Web-Based Training Modules for Roadway Lighting
These interactive modules provide the reader with background information on the impacts, technologies, and design of effective lighting for roadways. Participant workbooks include quizzes and extended problem exercises. 

Sustainable Roadway Lighting Seminar 
This report serves as an introductory textbook on the principles and approaches to visually effective, energy-efficient roadway lighting design.  

New Lighting Technologies and Roadway Lighting: An Informational Brochure 
This document describes options for roadway lighting retrofits along parkways, residential streets, and rural intersections. 

Optimizing Work Zone Lighting – Technical Brief
This reference sheet contains guidance and recommendations for lighting and visual information in different types of work zones. 

Highway Sign Photometric Calculation Spreadsheet Tool 
This calculation tool allows the user to estimate the minimum luminance and visual performance from retroreflective highway signs varying in color and sheeting material, for different geometries and distances from the sign.