Technology Talk Series: Low-beam headlights have evolved. Why it matters.

May 6, 2020

The effect of modern headlights on traffic sign effectiveness

May 6, 2020
11 a.m. Eastern | 10 a.m. Central

Vehicle headlight illumination has a direct impact on traffic sign visibility for nighttime motorists. Retroreflective signs work by returning light from headlights back to the driver. Two most recent datasets about evolving headlight illumination patterns, from 2011 and 2019 model vehicles, come from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Comparison of these two datasets provides insights on how well today’s common headlights illuminate many roadway elements including traffic signs. 

This webinar will provide a summary of this comparison and discuss the implications of newer headlights in relation to traffic sign performance at night. The data suggests that headlight changes designed to improve low beam roadway illumination and reduce glare for oncoming drivers also results in less light reaching traffic signs with reductions ranging from 14% to 24% for common sign locations. The session will also address how these reductions can be mitigated without compromising headlight integrity. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Low-beam headlights have evolved to be less glaring and deliver more light onto the roadway.
  • On average, signs are receiving less light from 2019 model low-beam headlights than they did from 2011 model low-beam headlights.
  • Upgrade your traffic sign specification from ASTM Type IV high intensity prismatic sheeting to 3M Diamond Grade DG3 Reflective Sheeting Type XI to compensate for the evolution of low-beam headlights—which are delivering less light to signs. Use Type XI sheeting to keep signs reflecting brightly in the age of less-glaring headlights.

At 3M we are dedicated to improving transportation safety and mobility so all road users can arrive at their destinations safely. We are a leading global supplier of high-performance materials for traffic signs and work zone devices, road markings, vehicle conspicuity markings, and vehicle registration materials, systems and services.

Michael J. Flannagan, PhD
Research Professor, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Dr. Michael Flannagan is a research associate professor in UMTRI’s Human Factors Group, where he does research on the human factors of driving. His research expertise is mainly in human vision and psychophysics. Much of Dr. Flannagan’s recent work has concentrated on the analysis of crash data to assess the likely safety effects of advanced adaptive headlighting and night vision systems, and on field methods for testing and evaluating these systems. The systems he has worked on include adaptive driving beams (ADB), which replace traditional high-beam and low-beam headlights with fully adaptive multiple-LED systems, and innovative signal lamps for automated vehicles. His work has been supported by many vehicle manufacturers, their suppliers, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Dr. Flannagan has taught courses in human perception, general psychology, and experimental and statistical methods. He has also lectured and participated in the summer short courses taught by the University of Michigan (U-M) College of Engineering in human factors and intelligent transportation systems. Dr. Flannagan holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Fuat Aktan, PhD
Regulatory Affairs Manager, 3M Transportation Safety Division

Dr. Aktan serves as Global Regulatory Affairs Manager in the Transportation Safety Division of 3M. He has 20+ years of experience in the traffic safety area and has a passion for safety thought-leadership in transportation. He served in multiple roles including human factors research, product development and marketing, executive management, business development, and quality management prior to his current role. He has been a member of ASTM, SAE, ATSSA, CIE, and TRB, and serves in multiple industry standards committees.

Dr. Aktan has more than 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and conference proceedings, and had the privilege to speak about driver performance and traffic safety in numerous venues around the world.