Seeing pedestrians at night: visual clutter does not mask biological motion

Accid Anal Prev. 2009 May;41(3):506-12. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2009.02.001. Epub 2009 Feb 21.


Although placing reflective markers on pedestrians' major joints can make pedestrians more conspicuous to drivers at night, it has been suggested that this "biological motion" effect may be reduced when visual clutter is present. We tested whether extraneous points of light affected the ability of 12 younger and 12 older drivers to see pedestrians as they drove on a closed road at night. Pedestrians wore black clothing alone or with retroreflective markings in four different configurations. One pedestrian walked in place and was surrounded by clutter on half of the trials. Another was always surrounded by visual clutter but either walked in place or stood still. Clothing configuration, pedestrian motion, and driver age influenced conspicuity but clutter did not. The results confirm that even in the presence of visual clutter pedestrians wearing biological motion configurations are recognized more often and at greater distances than when they wear a reflective vest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Contrast Sensitivity*
  • Darkness*
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Middle Aged
  • Protective Clothing*
  • Reaction Time
  • Vision Tests
  • Visual Fields
  • Walking*
  • Young Adult