Visual skills in Driving
By Yap Tiong Peng
Do you often find it hard to focus when you drive? It might be time to sharpen your Visual Skills. Even if you have perfect 20/20 score for your eyesight, you will still find this useful!
Accurate focus and alignment of the two eyes are essential Visual Skills in many of the tasks that you do. This allows you to view objects clearly and direct your attention to the task effectively. In driving, you often have to shift your visual attention to cover the road and its surroundings.
To check the mirrors and the road ahead, your eyes constantly move in concert with your head. This helps you to obtain clear vision of the traffic. The “oculomotor” and “vestibular” system of your eyes and brain does this so intuitively that you do not even think about it.
If your Visual Skill is inadequate, it is possible that your eyes would feel tired easily and consequently lose your focus on the road.
So, before you head down the road, you might want to see your optometrist to assess your Binocular Vision – this is a specialized battery of tests that evaluates your eye’s functional abilities and your eye’s depth perception (3D vision).
While you might be great in driving, some of these Visual Skills can still work less efficiently for some drivers and cause judgement errors. Symptoms include occasional blurred vision, double vision, poor ability to locate objects accurately, light sensitivity, dizziness and disorientation.
Limitations to an individual’s Visual Skills worsen the symptoms, but it is possible to remediate these issues through vision therapy. Frequently, prescription spectacles can also help to compensate for the visual deficiency.
It is not unusual for drivers who have previously involved in road traffic accidents to suffer from some of these symptoms. Mild to moderate whiplash injuries and concussion are common occurrences during road traffic accidents and these symptoms can persist for months or even years.
Most visual deficiencies can be treated with vision therapy, where specialised eye exercises are performed to remediate the deficit. Others, such as those with presbyopia, may benefit from wearing spectacles alone. In recent years, spectacle lenses can even be optimised for driving, with viewing zones that allow fast refocusing between the road, dashboard and mirrors. An optometrist should be able to help in most instances.
Yap Tiong Peng is an optometrist with a special interest in paediatrics and developmental vision. He practises at IGARD Group (Singapore Paediatric Optometry Pte Ltd) and works extensively on the neuroscience and psychophysics of vision through his PhD candidature at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is a part-time lecturer for MBA in Healthcare Management at TEG International College (Glyndwr University in Wales, UK) and the MSc in Clinical Optometry at the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tiong Peng is best known locally for his work on Vision Therapy and Neuro Optometric Rehabilitation. He is fully accredited in the UK in Behavioural Optometry and has completed postgraduate coursework in neurodevelopmental optometry (University of New South Wales, Australia), including brain injuries and special needs. Qualified since 1998, he holds a BSc(Hons) in Optometry from the University of Manchester (UMIST) and a MSc in Engineering and Physical Science in Medicine from the University of London. He was also awarded a Diploma of Imperial College in London.