A critical evaluation of contrast susceptibility as a predictor of driving accident involvement

  • Sarah V. Slade

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Contrast susceptibility is defined as the difference in visual acuity recorded for high and low contrast optotypes. Other researchers refer to this parameter as "normalised low contrast acuity".
Pilot surveys have revealed that contrast susceptibility deficits are more strongly related to driving accident involvement than are deficits in high contrast visual acuity. It has been hypothesised that driving situation avoidance is purely based upon high contrast visual acuity. Hence, the relationship between high contrast visual acuity and accidents is masked by situation avoidance whilst drivers with contrast susceptibility deficits remain prone to accidents in poor visibility conditions.
A national survey carried out to test this hypothesis provided no support for either the link between contrast susceptibility deficits and accidents involvement or the proposed hypothesis. Further, systematically worse contrast susceptibility scores emerged from vision screeners compared to wall mounted test charts. This discrepancy was not due to variations in test luminance or instrument myopia. Instead, optical imperfections inherent in vision screeners were considered to be responsible.
Although contrast susceptibility is unlikely to provide a useful means of screening drivers' vision, previous research does provide support for its ability to detect visual deficits that may influence everyday tasks. In this respect, individual contrast susceptibility variations were found to reflect variations in the contrast sensitivity function - a parameter that provides a global estimate of human contrast sensitivity.
Date of AwardDec 1998
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Dunne (Supervisor)


  • normalised low contrast acuity
  • situation avoidance
  • contrast sensitivity
  • visibility
  • luminance

Cite this