`Seeing' The Highway Through An Older Driver's Eyes

An aging population inevitably means that the average age of drivers will rise. That could pose safety problems because road signs and highway lighting are often designed by relatively young engineers. They rarely consider the deterioration in eyesight that occurs as people grow older.

That will soon change, thanks to research at Ontario's University of Waterloo. Werner K. Adrian, a professor of optometry, has developed a computer model that enables highway engineers to see through older eyes. The software shows how the same scene -- an intersection, for example -- would appear to drivers of different ages under various lighting conditions. Road signs are also a problem. Adrian found that older drivers can't always read today's signs in time to respond. Adrian's research will be reflected first in new lighting standards for U. S. and Canadian intersections and tunnels, which should take effect in mid-1992.

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