SECTION 2.1

This section is a summary of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety  film,
"Using Your Eyes Effectively."

It is important for you to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between the two types of information our eyes provide?
  2. Where should a driver concentrate most of his or her attention?
  3. What are the affects of alcohol on a driver’s visual perception?

The skill of safe driving is mostly mental.  It is determined primarily by how well you think about what is going on around you.

To think clearly and react quickly, you need information and most of that information comes to you from your eyes.

This is called visual perception and it means your ability to notice many things at once.

To get the right information to the brain, a driver’s eyes have to move constantly, picking out the appropriate spots at the right time.

First, let's look at how a driver’s eyes work.

Our eyes provide two types of vision:

Central vision
Peripheral or side vision

Our central vision covers about three degrees of our visual field and peripheral vision or side vision covers the rest.

Now as you can see here:
The three degrees of central vision is a very small area in your total field of vision. But central vision allows us to make very important judgment like estimating distance and reading details in the driving scene.

Our peripheral vision is not as sharp as central vision, but it is more sensitive to light and motion. And that’s a good thing because it helps us detect events to the side that are important to us, even when we’re not looking directly at them. Events like this include cars entering our field of vision from the side, or warning lights from ambulances, police cars, and other emergency vehicles.

Central vision plus side vision make up the entire visual field, which is the main source of information that all drivers need for safe driving. Most driver mistakes are caused by bad habits in the way drivers use their eyes.

There are three basic rules to follow when developing good eye habits for driving:

Aim high Look ahead, not down; the experienced driver’s attention is focused on the road ahead with their central vision following the intended path of travel.
Keep your eyes moving A good driver concentrates on selecting details in the traffic scene and on the distance between his/her car and objects ahead.
Get the big picture Search the whole scene; check the rear view mirrors.

As you approach an intersection, watch for vehicles and pedestrians moving in both directions, for traffic control devices, and for anything else that might block your vision or otherwise increase risks.

Now let's see how these rules work in some common driving situations.

We know that driving is primarily a task of information processing, but in order for us to learn which visual cues are important to us for driving, we must be able to describe a driver’s visual search process.

This is a picture of the driver’s visual field:
The oval area in the middle represents the driver’s central vision. The gray area surrounding the central vision oval represents peripheral or side vision.

When we drive our eyes move in a series of rapid, jerky movements. Between each movement, our eye pauses for a fraction of a second, then darts to another part of the scene. These pauses are known as fixations. Even though these fixations are very short, they give the driver’s brain time to gather important information from the eye’s image of the driving scene.

Below are examples of how the eyes of an experienced driver cover the driving scene when confronted with two potentially hazardous driving situations: negotiating a curve and merging onto a freeway.

The same three rules that apply to training your vision apply here:

Aim high and look ahead, not down.
The eyes of an experienced driver sweep into the curve several seconds before reaching it.
Keep your eyes moving.
Use lane lines to maintain proper lateral position.
Get the big picture.
Select important clues as to how to maneuver the car.

Merging is a potentially difficult maneuver. 

A good driver starts sampling the conditions in a stream of traffic ten seconds before reaching the merge point. In a merge situation, experienced drivers maintain lane position by glancing momentarily to the right side of the road and always maintaining an awareness of other traffic patterns developing around them.

Train your eyes to follow the three rules:

Aim high – look ahead, not down
Keep your eyes moving
Get the big picture

Keep these rules in mind whenever you drive and your eye habits will improve.

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