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What are the dangers of depth perception?

Over the years I have trained and examined many motorcyclists at both learner and advanced level, and examined many car drivers at advanced level where on more than one occasion I have thought to myself “Phew, that was a bit close” as the rider or driver pulled out of a junction and into the path of a fast approaching vehicle on the major carriageway.  Fortunately, to date nobody has ever been involved in a crash, but I am convinced more by luck than judgement in some cases..

When questioned later, the rider often told me that they had seen the approaching vehicle but thought they had more time than they actually did, but they themselves put it down to a misjudgement on their part, often because they felt nervous being under test conditions.

Now bearing in mind that a Policeman, an instructor or examiner can only check on the rider/drivers ability to read a number plate at a set distance of 20 meters, only a qualified Optician can actually examine someone’s eyes.

What I found is that many riders and drivers thought that they could see OK and to a certain degree they are right, but what they had not considered is that they suffered from a depth perception problem which made them misjudge speed and distances or were incapable of accurately judging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles.

I had one guy where I was very concerned after a particular hairy ride.  I cut the test short and I explained to him why all the time becoming more concerned that he may have vision issues.  I asked him how far he thought it was to a nearby parked car?  He said that he thought it was about 100 yards away.  It was actually less than 30 yards away.  Suddenly the penny dropped, in that he could see fine, (he did not wear glasses at the time) but his distance judgement was way out.

What this meant was that riders (and drivers) would/can see the vehicle and/or the hazard and believe for example that it is half a mile away travelling at 30 MPH but the reality is that it was actually a lot closer at a quarter of a mile away and travelling at 60 MPH.

This then begs the question, how many crashes at junctions have been attributed to a SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You) incident? Or a crash attributed to the Halo affect caused by bikes displaying dipped beam headlights in bright conditions, or depth perception problems?   Makes you think doesn’t it?

Apparently, the problem is quite easily rectified by an optician, and riders (and drivers) I have suggested that they get their depth perception checked out have said later what a difference it makes and how much safer they feel subsequently.

We as professionals encourage everyone to get their eyes checked regularly, but I would ask you to consider going one stage further and ask your optician to also check your depth perception. Better to be safe than sorry and it may just save your life or at least prevent you being in a crash.

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