August 2015

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What You See is What You Get. Or is it?

When you are driving your car, most of the information you are receiving is via your eyes. Good eyesight is essential for first-rate driving. But what is good eyesight? You may think that it is the ability to read small print in bad light, but eyesight is far more complicated than that. While we can now correct eyesight using some amazing surgery, what you see, is still not necessarily what you get.

Images enter your eye and are focussed onto your retina. The retina is like the film in an old-fashioned camera. The images on the retina are sent down the optic nerve for your brain to decode.

What You See...When we think about eyesight we forget about the last bit, ie the brain. The condition of the brain is vital in interpreting the information from the optic nerve. If you are tired, malnourished, unfit, dehydrated or under the influence of certain substances, your brain will not be working as it should. The factors above affect your peripheral vision.

We now need a simple definition for peripheral vision. Many may think it is how many degrees of vision you have when you look straight ahead; typically about 170 degrees. While this is correct, once again, the subject is more complicated than that. Often defined as the vision that occurs outside the very centre of gaze, we should return to how the brain decodes this information. In sports or activities that involve fast moving objects, peripheral vision (ie anything that is not dead ahead) is super-vital.

You can find plenty of examples on YouTube where there is an unnecessary car crash. These tend to be where the drivers are not F1-type athletes. An unfit driver may not see an incident a few cars ahead because his/her peripheral vision has missed the plainly visible problem that is fast approaching. Due to one of the already mentioned debilitating conditions the driver’s brain power is all used up decoding the ‘dead ahead’ position, with nothing left to decode the visible images just off centre. Most worrying of all; the driver is unaware of his/her poor peripheral vision.

Moral of the story: Road or racing, fitness improves eyesight.