Driving in Snow: Effect of Headlamp Color at Mesopic and Photopic Light Levels 2001-01-0320
Many individuals believe that yellow headlights are preferable to white headlights when driving at night during a snowfall. Although evidence exists to support the claim that yellow light can be perceived as less “glaring” or “distracting” than white light of equal luminance, it is not clear whether backscattered light of different colors are differentially effective for driver comfort or for driver performance. This study investigates a potential mechanism that could support the supposed benefit of yellow headlamps for reducing the detrimental effects of backscattered light to drivers at night. The results suggest that under low light levels when the visual field is dominated by a dynamic field of visual “noise” (like that caused by backscattered light from falling snow), performance of a tracking task similar to driving is reduced in accordance with the scotopic (rod-stimulating) content of the visual noise. Contrary to conventional understanding, rods might affect performance up to luminances of 65 cd/m2.