Vision And Driving

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

If you have a child of driving age, you get to experience the pleasure – as well as the anxiety – of having a child out on the road behind the wheel. Sixteen to 19-year-olds are the highest risk driving group, particularly during the first driving year. These vision and driving facts and tips could help to reduce the risk factors for all drivers, but especially for new drivers.

Vision good enough for TV or the classroom isn’t necessarily good enough for the road. Even a mild prescription can sometimes make a difference. Peripheral awareness is seeing things off to the side while still paying attention to the road directly ahead. All drivers should periodically scan the road left and right to maintain awareness and reduce visual fatigue. Depth and color perception, and focusing and eye coordination skills, all impact driving. During an eye exam, these skills are tested and quantified. Even mild vision problems can impact driving judgment, especially at night. Glare (e.g., oncoming headlights), can cause temporary but dramatic decreases in vision, but there are glasses lens coatings that can dramatically reduce glare. Drivers can also gaze slightly down and to the right side of the road to reduce the oncoming glare affect. Sunglasses, especially those with polarized lenses, reduce daytime brightness and glare. This is particularly important this time of the year, when daylight hours are the longest. Not all sunglasses are created equal. Better quality sunglasses typically have sharper optics, allowing for clearer vision. As obvious as it may sound, drivers should remember to not use their sunglasses at night.

Air conditioning vents pointed directly in the drivers face can dry out the surface of the eyes, causing temporary blur. Also, when we are concentrated on driving, our blink rate (which creates new tears) will decrease, causing drying and resultant blur. So keep blinking!

Particularly if you share a car, remember to adjust the rear and side-view mirrors to reduce blind spots, keep windshields clean, fasten seat belts (half of auto fatalities were not using theirs), and have young drivers commit to not use cell phones or text messaging while driving (about 25 percent of all accidents).

Driving can be a wonderful privilege. By recognizing that our eyes are the first-line defense, we can better anticipate and react to potential obstacles and hazards. Especially for new drivers, these tips may increase road safety, so that we can all likely sleep better at night!


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