Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : March 31, 2016 Edition Contents PAGE 8 - THE ADVERTISER, THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2016
Eyes on the road
and on your health
WHEN one thinks about road safety,
seat belts and airbags are the first two
things that come to mind.
However there are many other fac-
tors that ensure you get from A to B
You take most of them for granted
your reflexes, your ability to cope in
certain situations and your eyesight.
Melbourne ophthalmologist Dr Lewis
Levitz of Vision Eye Institute encourag-
es everyone to take his or her sight se-
riously when getting behind the wheel.
“Most of us know what the petrol ca-
pacity of our car is and what the tyre
pressure should be.
“But most of us don’t know what
the minimum sight requirements are,
which is a scary thought.”
There are two main legal require-
ments that need to be met:
• Visual acuity, or how well you can
• Visual field, which is how wide an
area you can see in front of you.
Other factors that can influence driv-
ing and vision include: Depth percep-
tion, lack of sleep, visual distractions,
colour blindness, double vision and
night vision problems.
The problem with these is that there
is no way to regulate them.
“Some people, such as those who are
colour blind, can learn to cope. “Other
factors such as lack of sleep are tem-
porary and common sense is needed”,
says Dr Levitz.
But serious diseases or disorders of
the eye that affect vision can be diag-
nosed, and an ophthalmologist will be
able to ascertain if a person is able to
legally drive – or when it’s time to stop.
What is visual acuity?
When you renew your license and are
asked to read from the eye chart, you
are being tested for visual acuity.
The truth is, by the time you are of
legal driving age, you will know wheth-
er or not you need glasses or contact
lenses to see properly.
Your optometrist measures your vi-
sual acuity via what is called a “Snellen
The size of the letters that can be
read at a specific distance is written
down and a value given.
As Dr Levitz explains” “A vision of
6/12 using one or both eyes is usually
required to maintain a license – this
will also take into account your vision
when wearing glasses or contact lenses
this is called a conditional license, as
it’s only legal on the condition that you
use vision correction at all times when
behind the wheel.”
So anyone who needs glasses or con-
tacts will be legally required to wear
them while driving.
What is your visual field?
“It’s no good having great vision if
you can only see what’s directly in front
of you and not what’s approaching the
car from either side,” says Dr Levitz.
“Field tests may need to be performed
in order to test that a person can see
pedestrians in their peripheral vision.”
The average person needs to be able
to see more than 110 degrees around
them, which the majority can easily do,
as most people can see 170 degrees.
“Visual field is not always tested
when you go for your license test.
Sometimes the loss of visual field is
related to a disease.
“People suffering from glaucoma or
retinitis pigmentosa have good central
vision but impaired peripheral vision,
and therefore may need regular field-
testing. Some people who have suffered
a stroke can also lose peripheral vision
and need further testing to ensure that
they are not disqualified from driving.”
Other visual impairments
There are a number of other issues
that can affect the quality of driving:
• Depth perception. This is used to
judge how close you are to another car
when parking or when to apply brakes
when the car in front stops. You usu-
ally need good vision in both eyes to be
able to judge depth properly
• Colour Blindness. This can af-
fect the ability to react to street signs,
traffic lights and break lights. Colour
blindness is not usually tested for
when obtaining a license
• Double vision. Everyone occasion-
ally ‘sees double’, particularly if they
are tired. Sometimes the double vision
can come on suddenly after a minor
stroke or in diabetes. It can be short-
term or permanent in which case suf-
ferers will not legally be able to drive
• Night vision. Night driving can be
difficult for some people – haloes and
the glare around street and car lights,
especially on wet nights are the most
Cataracts, glaucoma, retinitis pigmen-
tosa and other eye diseases may affect
night driving. Some of these problems,
such as cataracts, may be treatable.
Unfortunately, unlike good wine, our
eyesight does not improve with age.
Some issues with older drivers in-
• Cataracts. The ability to see street
signs in the presence of oncoming traf-
fic may be affected or the headlights of
cars look like they have halos around
them and look fuzzy. Glare also be-
comes an issue
• Glaucoma. This can impair your
ability to see to the side, so that pedes-
trians starting to cross the road or cars
overtaking on the side may not be easy
• Macular degeneration. As this dis-
order develops, it becomes more diffi-
cult to adjust to the lighting conditions
when driving from a brightly lit area
into a dark one, such as into an un-
derground carpark. The central vision
may also get blurry and the street lines
may look crooked or warped.
Most states now require drivers over
the age of 75 to have regular medical
assessments, where conditions that
will affect driving are visual disorders,
memory changes, cardiac conditions
and diabetes can be monitored.
Think before you drive
Feeling a bit anxious now? Dr Levitz
is quick to reassure you.
“You’re most likely able to meet all
the requirements to drive a car safely
and will generally be aware of any cir-
cumstances in which your vision may
be impaired while behind the wheel,
but it is important to have your eyes
If you follow the common sense ap-
proach of having regular eye check-
ups by your GP or optometrist there
is nothing that should diminish your
The Transport Accident Commission is urging pedestrians to put
away their mobile phones when they are anywhere near traffic.
It’s a dangerous
way to go walking
THE TAC is reminding Victori-
ans to put away their phone and
pay attention when they go out
walking, especially near traffic.
Nearly 200 pedestrians have lost
their lives on Victorian roads in
the past five years.
Despite far less congestion in
rural areas, more than a quarter
(56) of those people died outside
Of those 56, Saturday proved to
be by far the most fatal day of the
week, with 15 regional pedestrian
lives lost – the next highest was
TAC chief executive Joe Cala-
fiore reminded Victorians that a
lapse of concentration when out
walking could turn deadly.
“We all know pedestrians will
come off second best in a crash
with a vehicle like a car, tractor,
truck or motorbike,” Mr Calafiore
“What we are asking pedestri-
ans to do is be aware of their sur-
roundings at all times and put
away the mobile phone when out
for a walk or a drive.
“Distractions are a major cause
of road trauma and all road users,
whether they’re drivers, pedestri-
ans, cyclists or riders, are at risk
when their attention is taken from
the important task of using our
road network,” Mr Calafiore said.
TAC road safety research has re -
vealed about half (51 per cent) of
regional drivers admit to answer-
ing or making a phone call while
More than a quarter (27 per
cent) of regional drivers said they
read text messages while stopped
at traffic lights, less than those
drivers from metropolitan areas
(36 per cent).
However, regional drivers were
more likely than city drivers to
read a text while actively driving
(14 per cent versus 9 per cent).
“Whether you’re driving a car
that’s moving or at a standstill, us-
ing your phone without a hands-
free kit just shouldn’t be an op -
tion,” Mr Calafiore said.
“Rural roads often have higher
speeds, so if you’re looking at your
phone for just a couple of seconds
while driving at 100km/h, you’ll
travel almost 50 metres virtually
“Installing hands-free technology
while minimising your talk time,
asking one of your passengers
to look after your phone or even
placing it in the boot are all better
options than risking your life or
others, ” Mr Calafiore said.
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