Monday, 12 November 2012

Eyes on the road, not the best idea

Yes, it’s been a long time since I uploaded anything. 

Getting back on track, I have used this time to get into some interesting trivia. I drive fairly often around the demonic streets of Mumbai. Licenses continue to be handed out like condoms at a swingers party and you’re looking at female drivers of most countries being much better drivers than the male drivers in our little sub-continent {complement/insult? you decide}. However, this post isn’t a rant about something that is India specific, it’s an issue that most of us brush off and just say to ourselves “Dude focus!” Not following me? Well trust me this happens to you almost every time you let down that parking brake and start driving. 

Motion induced blindness {M.I.B} is a common point between the Venn diagram of medicine and motoring. My digression has reached new levels so I’ll try and get to the crux of what I’m talking about.

So, you’re driving down the main road of your locality at about 60kmph. The roads are fairly good and all you can see are the other motorists around you. A guy in a grey Hyundai is enjoying a cup of coffee, a youngster is leaning back in a 7 year old Honda and you assume he can only see his instrument cluster.  Suddenly you spot a person about to cross the road a mere 50 meters ahead of you. You get a little shell shocked; lightly hit the brakes and wonder “how the hell did I see him just now?” or “He wasn’t there two seconds ago!”

Were you not paying attention? No, the issue was that you were paying too much attention.  Of course driving drunk is not the solution no matter how much attention it absorbs. The simple fact is that your eyes are on the road and that’s all you tend to see when you’re constantly driving at speeds of 50kmph and above. In crowded city streets there are a plethora of distraction to keep your eyes busy focusing on the assortment of distractions. It could be pedestrians who talk on the phone and don’t look while crossing or a paver block that’s come loose and threatens to break your bumper. In Mumbai the thought of a fresh pothole along your everyday route keeps your speedometer relaxed and eyes moving like a table tennis spectator which is why you never fail to spot even a rat moving. Then why is it that we have so many accidents on open highways, even though the number of cars is significantly lesser?

The problem lies in the fact that at high speeds when your eyes are focused on the movement of the roads, your peripheral vision takes a thrashing. Your path of sight gets narrowed down to one direction which is good only if you’re a drag racer on a track. Motorists have reported that they have even failed to see SUVs entering their lane until they were quite close to them. To see just how bad it gets, go to this link and see essentially what happens when you’re driving.

The three yellow dots you saw pulling a Houdini, could be a person, vehicle or any given object. M.I.B is a major issue for bikers in particular. Bikers go through M.I.B themselves and often end up being victims of it as well, because of their smaller size. Bikers are seen as a nuisance because of constant lane cutting and swiping overtakes, but in certain cases innocent and responsible riders are taken down by 4 wheelers simply because they never spotted them.

The solution to this undermined issue is pretty simple, just pretend you’re in a busy city street and keep your eyes moving from left to right focusing on different points around you, even if it is for a millisecond. That doesn’t mean you keep your eyes flailing about like you’re tripping on acid. Just take a moment periodically to flex your sockets. It will ensure a safer drive and an alert driver. 

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