Wood, J. M., Tyrrell, R. A., & Carberry, T. P. (2005). Limitations in drivers' ability to recognize pedestrians at night. Hum Factors, 47(3), 644–653.
Abstract: This study quantified drivers' ability to recognize pedestrians at night. Ten young and 10 older participants drove around a closed road circuit and responded when they first recognized a pedestrian. Four pedestrian clothing and two beam conditions were tested. Results demonstrate that driver age, clothing configuration, headlamp beam, and glare all significantly affect performance. Drivers recognized only 5% of pedestrians in the most challenging condition (low beams, black clothing, glare), whereas drivers recognized 100% of the pedestrians who wore retroreflective clothing configured to depict biological motion (no glare). In the absence of glare, mean recognition distances varied from 0.0 m (older drivers, low beam, black clothing) to 220 m (722 feet; younger drivers, high beam, retroreflective biomotion). These data provide new motivation to minimize interactions between vehicular and pedestrian traffic at night and suggest garment designs to maximize pedestrian conspicuity when these interactions are unavoidable.