The D.E.P. Academy Driver Education Course


Chapter 2: The Driver Page 1


  • You must be in good physical condition to drive safely, especially your vision and hearing. These senses allow you to identify and react to hazards and emergency situations. Many driving professionals refer to the abilities needed to drive safely as  S.I.P.D.E.

  •   S. Search. Looking ahead and around the car to see any cars, people, dogs, traffic signs or  anything else on, or near, the road.

  •   I.  Identify  any potential hazards or situations that may require a reaction from you.

  •  P. Predict which of the potential hazards and situations are most likely to occur. If the brake lights of the car in front of you turn on, you can predict that the car will be slowing down or stopping. Conversely, you wouldn't stop before traveling under an overhanging tree limb, afraid it will fall from the tree when you pass beneath it. It's all about perception.

  •   D.   Decide which action to take if a situation occurs or a potential hazard happens. If the car in front of you stops should you stop or go around it?

  •   E.   Execute the action best suited to deal with the situation or hazard.  You must possess  the reflexes, reactions, strength, and physical ability to escape hazardous situations. If you lack, or are deficient, in any of these abilities you will never be a safe driver! You will not get your license if you can't pass the driving test at DMV.              

  • To pass you must prove that you are focused, that you show good judgment in traffic situations and react properly and safely, and that you are anticipating and reacting to the actions of other drivers in an appropriate  manner

The Eyes And Vision. 

  • The sense of sight is the most important of the senses affecting your ability to drive.  About 90% of decisions you make while driving are based on information you gather with your eyes.  If you are having trouble seeing, your ability to drive safely is in serious risk.

  • Being able to see well means more than simply having 20/20 vision.  It means being able to see straight ahead and to the sides and being able to perceive depth as well as color. 

  • If your ability to see clearly is impaired, you will have difficulty adjusting to your car's speed and position to minimize risk.  You will not be able to search the roadway far enough ahead to spot a threatening condition early. You need 400 feet to stop at 55 mph.  You will also have trouble identifying signs, signals, and roadway markings.

Visual Acuity.

  • To check your ability to see clearly, you should be tested for visual acuity by a health care professional or by your local department of motor vehicles.  The visual acuity test measures how well you can see and whether or not you need to wear glasses or contact lenses to improve your vision.

Depth Perception.

  • Depth perception gives a three-dimensional perspective to objects.  It helps you judge the relative distance between two objects.  Whenever you look at an object far away, you are using depth perception.  You use distance judgment to estimate the distance between yourself and the object.
  • Depth perception and distance judgment work together.  They are especially important when you drive because they help you control your following distance, adjust your position in traffic, make turns, or pass another car.
  • To compensate for poor depth perception, give yourself extra margins of space and time.  For example, you can increase your following distance.  You can also compare the relative speeds of the cars coming toward you.

Peripheral Vision.

  • When you are standing still and looking straight ahead, you can see what is directly ahead and also what is at an angle to your right and left.  This is your field of vision.
  • Your vision is clearest in a narrow, cone shaped area directly in front of you. This your area of central vision.  Vision at angles to your right and left is called peripheral vision.  This vision enables you to notice objects and movement to your sides. It is also used in controlling your vehicle. When you look in your mirror, peripheral vision is used to monitor traffic in front of your vehicle. 
  • Your vision up and down, called your vertical field of vision, allows you to see traffic lights overhead and pavement markings, such as crosswalks or arrows in turn lanes.  When you are in forward motion your field of vision narrows.  You need to move your eyes from side to side and up and down to detect any potentially dangerous conditions and any traffic signs or markings.
  • Poor peripheral vision can lead to a failure to react to a hazard coming from the side, failure to see a traffic light, failure to notice changes in the flow of traffic, weaving while negotiating a turn, or driving too close to parked cars.

Blind Spots.

  • No matter how good your peripheral vision is, there will still be areas around your vehicle that you cannot see into. There areas are called blind-spots. Small cars and motorcycles are easily hidden in these areas. Your mirrors don't look into your blind spots.
  • When you change lanes you must look over your shoulder, into the blind-spot on that side, before you enter that lane. Bigger vehicles have bigger blind-spots.

Night Vision And Dealing With Glare.

  • Even if you have 20/20 vision, you do not see as well at night as you do during the day.  At night your visual acuity, field of vision, depth perception, contrast sensitivity and color vision are all reduced.  For some people, seeing at night is even more difficult.
  • One of the biggest problems in night driving is glare caused by the sudden brightness of the headlights of oncoming vehicles.  Whether you look directly at the approaching beams or not, the pupils of your eyes narrow to adjust to the brightness.  Your eyes then take a moment to readjust to the darkness of night.  During this time, you may be temporarily blinded.

Here are some ways to deal with the danger of glare:

  • Do not look directly at the headlights of an oncoming care.  Instead, look beyond the car and direct your attention to the right edge of the road, keeping the oncoming car in your peripheral vision.
  • Reduce your speed if you are momentarily blinded by glare.
  • Keep alert to possible glare situations that may arise, as on curved or hilly roadways.  When you anticipate such a situation, turn your eyes slightly away from it, keeping it in your peripheral vision. Of course, during the day you can wear sunglasses!

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