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Australian Study Identifies Different Problem with Vision for Drivers

September 25, 2013

All of us who drive have had to stand in front of some sort of counter at our local Department of Motor Vehicles office and read the letters across the piece of cardboard hanging on the wall behind the worker who was dealing with us. While this may seem silly, it’s obviously something that’s done in order to identify people who may have trouble seeing, as people who struggle with their vision are obviously risks when they are behind the wheels of vehicles.

It’s likely that this ‘test’ has identified many people over the years who should not have been driving a vehicle. However, visual acuity is only one aspect of being able to see properly, and according to a recent study that was done by researchers in Australia, it may not even be the most important aspect of vision as it relates to driving safely. An article in the Science Network of Western Australia recently reported on the results of this study and its surprising conclusions. A link to the full article can be found here.

As it turns out, it’s possible that contrast sensitivity and not visual acuity was the aspect of vision that was most directly related to driving difficulties. The researchers at the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre (C-MARC) evaluated the driving difficulties experienced by 99 older bilateral cataract patients both before they had completed the surgery on one eye and after, and the results were somewhat surprising. The patients reported that after the surgery was done on one eye, they found a much bigger difference in their ability to drive because of their contrast sensitivity than because of any other aspect of their vision. The majority of the drivers reported an improvement in their ability to see while they drove after that first surgery.

However, 16 percent reported no improvement and another 11 percent reported more difficulty with driving after their first procedure. The results of this study could lead to some changes in the way that people view vision and how it applies to driving. Clearly, visual acuity is important, but there could come a time when there are tests administered to drivers that will quickly test their ability to process contrast such that these at-risk drivers can be identified and kept off the road if necessary.

For now, the results of this study simply need to be understood and people need to be aware of them. Almost all of us who have ever heard someone describe a car accident have heard the words, “I didn’t see” as they began that description. While this does happen to drivers often, it does not remove them from responsibility if they cause crashes that lead to serious injuries or worse. People who have been injured by these drivers need to assert their legal rights. If this includes you or someone you love, contact an injury lawyer at Bernstein & Poisson today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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