Enhancing Night Visibility Using UV Technology To Be Tested On Virginia Tech's Smart Road

Problem: It was a dark and stormy night

(FEB. 19, 1998* -- BLACKSBURG, VA) Have you ever driven in a pouring rain or thick fog, uncertain where the edge of your lane or the road is? Have you ever barely missed a pedestrian on a dark night because you could not see them? Researchers in Virginia Tech's Center for Transportation Research and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Research Council are working with several industries and agencies to solve the problem of night visibility for driving and pedestrian safety.

The center and VDOT have been awarded a $2.6 million project from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for enhanced night visibility research, Tom Dingus, center director, announced. Dingus is co-director of the project with Gary Allen, director of the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

Allen reports, "Research in Sweden has shown that the use of florescent pavement markings and ultraviolet headlights, in conjunction with low beam headlights, can double a driver's visibility distance during wet night road conditions."

Preliminary tests have shown that ultraviolet headlights, similar to "black lights" popular in the 60's and 70's, allow drivers to see up to 30 percent farther at night and increase the visibility of pedestrians. The research will seek to improve the safety of night driving by enhancing the visibility of road markings, signs, and pedestrians, says Dingus.

We've all seen ultraviolet (UV) technology in novelty items. "Black light" -- which is light in ranges the eye cannot see -- reflecting off florescent materials is what makes a fish tank glow in a dimly lit restaurant. Phosphates in detergents and even toothpaste are responsible for clothing and smiles that glow in dark discos. But you probably never suspected that the technology present in those wild posters in your room -- or your children's rooms -- could lead to safer driving.


Contact: Tom Dingus
Virginia Tech

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