The skill of safe driving is mostly in your mind. To think clearly and react fast enough, you need information, most of which comes to you through your eyes. It all has to do with visual perception, which is knowing where you should look when driving a car at once.
To get the correct information into the brain, your eyes must move constantly, picking up the appropriate parts of the driving scene at the right time. This is especially critical when you are driving in bad weather.
How Can You Ensure You Are Using Your Eyes Right When Driving?
To answer that, let’s look at how the driver’s eyes work. There are two types of visions:
1. Central vision
Your visual field is about 200 degrees horizontal and 150 degrees horizontal. This allows you to detect changes everywhere within your visual field. Central vision is concentrated in the spot that covers about 3 degrees of your visual field.
This is a minimal area, but this vision allows you to make some critical driving judgments, such as estimating distance and reading details in the traffic scene.
2. Peripheral/Side Vision
It covers the rest of what the central vision leaves out. It is not as sharp as the central vision, but is more sensitive to light and motion, helping us detect events to the side that are important to us, even if we are not looking directly at them.
So, to answer the question above: the best way to ensure you are using your eyes right when driving is to make good use of your central and peripheral visions to have a broad view of the essential details going on at any time as you drive. Both visions make up your entire visual field.
How Can Your Visual Perception Work For You When You Are Driving?
Bad habits cause most drivers to make mistakes in the way they use their eyes. How you use your eyes will determine how safely you drive. New drivers who have just got their licenses tend to concentrate directly in front of their cars, whether making a turn or going straight. It is because moving the vehicle is a new experience for them.
You remember that when you were learning to ride a bike, you wanted to concentrate your eyes on the pedals. It is the same mindset here, except the pedals become the front of the car.
So how should you use your eyes? Follow the following three basics rules:
1. Look Ahead, Not Down
Your attention should be focused on the road ahead, following your intended path of travel. It would be best to allow a visual lead time of at least 20-30 seconds. If you look ahead, you will still see what is happening in front of the car. That is because as your peripheral vision helps you to look ahead, your side vision will take care of the rest.
But if you concentrate your peripheral vision in the immediate front of the car, you will not see what is happening far ahead, so you cannot prepare to react to whatever danger is ahead of you.
It could be a deer crossing the road or the car ahead suddenly pulling the brakes, requiring you to react accordingly. It would take you by surprise if you didn’t see it happening, which would delay your reaction.
2. Keep Your Eyes Moving
With your eyes moving, you can select details on the traffic scene, mentally calculate the distance between your car and the vehicle in front, and check other objects ahead. The roadway and the scenes keep changing as you drive, so search for clues. Stay alert for changes that could require you to readjust your speed.
3. Get The Big Picture
You should be searching the whole scene, not just part of it. Keep on checking the rear-view mirrors to see ahead and behind you. As you approach an intersection, watch for vehicles and pedestrians moving in all directions, traffic control devices, and anything else that may block your vision or increase risk.
What Is The Effect Of Alcohol On Visual Perception?
A few drinks of alcohol can cause your concentration to start failing. Your eyes will mostly stare straight ahead, with the central vision stuck squarely on the road’s surface so that you notice nothing on either side of the lane. This is a perilous situation for you and other road users.
New drivers should take the time to train themselves to have good eye habits to effectively search the driving scene for information that will allow them to drive more safely.
How Can Taller Vehicles Ahead of You Be Of Help?
As you concentrate ahead while driving, you should pay close attention to the taller vehicles such as buses and trucks because their drivers usually see road situations much more clearly.
Therefore, if the taller vehicle far ahead of you suddenly changes lanes for no apparent vision from your viewpoint, it could be that there is an accident or roadblock o the horizon, so you should follow suit.
However, you will only note the behavior of the tall buses ahead of you if you practice what we teach you, namely, looking ahead, not down the immediate front of your car.
How do you prevent blind spots when driving?
Preventing blind spots while driving is crucial for road safety. Here are some important steps to follow:
- Adjust mirrors: Set side mirrors to maximize rear visibility. Angle them slightly outward to reduce blind spots.
- Use the rearview mirror: Position it for a clear view of the rear window.
- Perform shoulder checks: Turn your head to check blind spots before changing lanes or making turns.
- Be aware of blind spot zones: Know blind spot areas specific to your vehicle.
- Utilize blind spot detection systems: Some vehicles have sensors or cameras to monitor adjacent lanes and provide alerts.
- Maintain safe following distance: Keep distance to improve visibility and reaction time.
- Stay attentive and signal: Pay attention, use turn signals, and communicate your intentions.
Where are you supposed to look when you drive?
Being a safe driver requires maintaining awareness of your surroundings. This includes consistently scanning the road ahead, checking the sides, and monitoring what’s happening behind your vehicle. By actively scanning, you can anticipate potential issues that might necessitate adjusting your speed or position on the road. This includes being mindful of other vehicles and pedestrians in your vicinity and paying attention to warning signs indicating potential hazards or obstacles ahead.
What to look for when driving a car?
When driving a car, being vigilant and observant of your surroundings is important. Here are some key things to look for:
- Traffic signs and signals: Pay attention to traffic signs, signals, and road markings to ensure you follow the road rules and navigate intersections safely.
- Other vehicles: Keep an eye on the movement and behavior of other vehicles around you. Look for signals, braking, and any sudden changes in speed or direction that could indicate a potential hazard or upcoming maneuver.
- Pedestrians and cyclists: Watch out for pedestrians crossing the road, cyclists sharing the road, and individuals near sidewalks or crosswalks. Be prepared to yield to them and give them the right of way when necessary.
- Road conditions: Observe the road surface for hazards such as potholes, debris, or slippery areas. Adjust your driving accordingly to maintain control and minimize the risk of accidents.
- Surrounding environment: Be aware of your surroundings, including nearby buildings, parked cars, and obstacles that may require adjusting your driving position or speed.
- Mirror checks: Regularly check your rearview and side mirrors to monitor the traffic behind and alongside you. This includes checking your blind spots by performing shoulder checks when changing lanes or making turns.
- Traffic flow: Pay attention to traffic flow and adjust your speed and position accordingly. Maintain a safe following distance for sufficient braking distance and reaction time.
- Emergency vehicles: Keep an eye out for emergency vehicles with flashing lights or sirens. Be prepared to yield and create a clear path for them to pass safely.
- Weather conditions: Take note of weather conditions such as rain, fog, or snow, as they can affect visibility and road conditions. Adapt your driving to the prevailing weather conditions and drive more cautiously if needed.
- Potential hazards: Scan for any potential hazards or unusual situations, such as construction zones, roadwork, animals crossing, or vehicles parked on the side of the road.
What to check when turning right?
Begin by checking your interior mirror to assess the traffic situation behind you before initiating the turn. Afterward, glance at your right door mirror to be aware of any vehicles or cyclists nearby. Once the turn is completed, remember to recheck your interior mirror to maintain awareness of the traffic around you.
Of course, your takeaway should not be that you should always look ahead when driving your car. Driving involves various visual communications that coordinate to keep you safe.
On the contrary, the same eyes should view the side mirrors to check what is happening behind you. The point is that most of your attention should be far ahead of your car because that is where you are heading to.
Your immediate front is not crucial because you pass it in seconds and then contend with what is on the horizon.
At Pierre Paul Driving School, we instruct learners on how to drive safely. We also give them some driving tips they won’t find anywhere else. If you plan to learn to drive or refresh your skills, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Should you also know anyone interested in driving, we would appreciate you referring him/her to us. We are based in Brooklyn, New York City.