As summer approaches, millions of California drivers will hit the road for family vacations, ball games, barbecues, and beach parties. Many will have their car checked out to ensure it is in good working order before embarking on a major trip. However, not many drivers will even think about having their eyes checked as well. Not surprisingly, a driver’s vision guides 90% of driving decisions, so good eyesight is essential for road safety.
Having the proper vision skills and/or prescription is important for many reasons:
Adequate distance vision acuity is imperative for judging distances and reaction time when driving. Poor distance vision increases the risk of making unreliable judgements with potentially disastrous results – even the simplest reactions take 0.4 seconds, so if distance vision is poor, signs or objects may not be seen until it is too late to react safely.
Good peripheral vision allows drivers to survey the area without looking away from the road. This includes early recognition of cross-traffic, pedestrians, animals, signs, and changes in flow of traffic. Impaired peripheral vision can result in the driver failing to react to a hazard on the far left or right, failing to stop at a stoplight suspended over an intersection, weaving while negotiating a curve, or driving too close to parked cars.
Safe night driving requires the ability to see low contrast objects and in low light conditions. Impaired night vision can result in tailgating, failing to steer when necessary (since it is difficult to see low contrast features such as edges or irregularities in the road surface), and recovery from glare of oncoming headlights.
Glare refers to the disruption of vision due to veiling luminance. Important visual skills for drivers are glare resistance – the extent to which the driver can still see critical objects while facing a steady source of glare (setting sun, headlights), and glare recovery – rapidity with which the driver’s functioning vision returns to what it was before the glare was encountered. If these skills are not adequate, the driver can miss curves, strike an animal or pedestrian, or crash into slow moving or stopped vehicles.
Besides regular optometric exams, additional tips for good vision while driving include:
Regular optometric exams are especially important for senior citizens who drive. Visual ability decreases with age, and certain skills lessen with age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma, which narrows peripheral vision , and cataracts, which increases sensitivity to glare.
Schedule your eye exam before you hit the road.
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