Purdue University Graduate School
Thesis - Complete Document - April 27, 2022 - revised.pdf (6.65 MB)


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posted on 2022-04-27, 18:55 authored by Franklin Vargas DavilaFranklin Vargas Davila

Over the last two decades, an increasing number of highway construction and maintenance projects in the United States have been completed at night to avoid or mitigate traffic congestion delays. Working at night entails several advantages, including lower traffic volumes at night, reduced impact on local businesses, more freedom for lane closures, longer possible work hours, lower pollution, cooler temperatures for equipment and material, and fewer overall crashes due to lower traffic volumes at night. Although nighttime roadway operations may minimize traffic disruptions, there are several safety concerns for motorists passing by and for workers in the nighttime work zone. For instance, just in 2019, there were 842 work zone fatalities reported in the United States, with 48% of these being associated with fatalities on night shifts. Additionally, 70% of these fatalities involved drivers/occupants under the age of 50. Moreover, improper lighting arrangements or excessive lighting levels produced by temporary lighting systems installed at the job site could cause harmful levels of glare for the traveling public and workers leading to an increase level of hazards and crashes in the vicinity of the work zone. 

To address the issue of glare, very few studies have been conducted to evaluate and quantify glare at work zones. Most of these studies were limited to the determination of disability glare levels of lighting systems (balloon lights and light towers) with a metal-halide type light source by using the veiling luminance ratio (VL ratio) as a criterion for limiting disability glare. However, deeper evaluation of the effects of driver’s age on the veiling luminance ratio, and the use of energy-efficient lighting systems which employ light-emitting diode (LED) type light sources were not performed.

This thesis focuses on determining and evaluating disability glare on nighttime work zones as a step towards developing appropriate lighting strategies for improving the safety of workers and motorists during nighttime highway construction and maintenance projects. Disability glare is the glare that impairs our vision of objects without necessarily causing discomfort and it can be evaluated using the veiling luminance ratio (VL ratio). In this study, disability glare values were determined by using lighting data (vertical illuminance and pavement luminance measurements) from testing 49 lighting arrangements. Two LED balloon lights, a metal-halide light tower, and an LED light tower were utilized for the field lighting experiments. The disability glare level evaluation examines the effects of mounting height, power output, rotation angle, and aiming angle of luminaires on the veiling luminance ratio values (which is a criterion for limiting disability glare). 

The analysis of the disability glare values revealed four major findings regarding the roles played by the mounting height, power output, lighting system orientation, aiming angles of luminaries, and driver’s age on disability glare levels as follows: (i) an increase in mounting heights of both balloon lights and light towers resulted in lower veiling luminance ratio values (or disability glare); (ii) compared to the "perpendicular" and "away" orientations, orienting the light towers in a "towards" direction (45 degrees) significantly increases the disability glare levels of the lighting arrangement; (iii) increasing the tilt angles of luminaires of the portable light towers resulted in an increase in veiling luminance ratio values; (iv) for balloon lights, at observers ages over 50, VL ratio values were found to be greater than the maximum recommended; (v) for LED light towers oriented towards the traffic, at driver’s ages over 40, VL ratio values exceed the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommended value; and (vi) for metal-halide light towers oriented towards the traffic, at driver’s ages over 50, VL ratio values exceed the IES recommended value. The results from this research study can provide State Transportation Agencies (STAs) and roadway contractors with a means to improve glare control strategies for nighttime work.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Civil Engineering


  • Civil Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dulcy M. Abraham

Additional Committee Member 2

Jon D. Fricker

Additional Committee Member 3

Phillip S. Dunston