A recent Australian study presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting suggests that not just clarity of vision, but the width of a person’s visual field, significantly impacts driving safety.
While most people associate good vision with the ability to see clearly at a distance (visual acuity), this study highlights the role of peripheral vision—how much you can see to the sides while looking straight ahead.
Good peripheral vision is essential for spotting potential hazards while driving, such as cars approaching from side roads or pedestrians stepping off the curb.
Researchers from Western Australia University delved into data spanning almost 30 years, involving over 31,000 drivers aged 50 and above.
They discovered that 14% had been in at least one car crash, with many experiencing some loss of peripheral vision.
The Impact of Visual Field Loss
The findings revealed that any decrease in peripheral vision in both eyes ups the risk of a car accident by 84%.
Surprisingly, severe loss of vision in any part of a person’s peripheral vision could lead to more crashes, but a loss of central vision did not seem to increase the risk as much.
Dr. Siobhan Manners, the lead researcher, emphasizes the necessity of an adequate visual field for safe driving.
The team hopes this study will not only raise public awareness about the importance of peripheral vision but also help inform those with visual impairments, clinicians, and licensing authorities about the levels of vision required for safe driving.
In essence, this research could lead to a better understanding of what contributes to safe driving and potentially influence vision testing standards for driver’s licensing to prioritize peripheral vision assessment.
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