Tunnel vision, also known as peripheral vision loss (PVL), impairs your peripheral vision capability, or your ability to see to the side. People who are experiencing tunnel vision may say that they feel as though they are looking at the world through a tube. For this reason, tunnel vision is sometimes referred to as tubular vision. Like highway hypnosis, another visual phenomenon which may occur while driving, tunnel vision can come on suddenly and seemingly without cause, creating a dangerous situation and increasing the likelihood of a car accident.
Safe driving is dependent upon countless factors, but the driver’s ability to see clearly to the front and both sides is one of the most important. Many other physical disabilities can be managed in order to drive safely, but visual impairment can be a critical component preventing safe driving. The loss of peripheral vision can impact your ability to:
- Pay attention to cyclists or pedestrians, including children or joggers, who may be near the side of the road or sidewalk.
- Be aware of cars passing or merging on your right or left.
- See and obey road signs and traffic signals.
- Recognize and react to changing traffic patterns resulting from accident or construction.
- Take appropriate action when an animal, person, or vehicle suddenly crosses the road in front of you.
- Safely navigate intersections.
- Notice vehicle problems or dashboard warning lights that may appear while you are driving.
- Focus on safe vehicle operation without distraction, worry, or altered mental state.
What Causes Tunnel Vision?
Tunnel vision can be the result of disease, injury, or other mental or physical factors, and may present with additional symptoms such as blurred vision, seeing flashes of light, or having the sensation that your side vision is obstructed by spiderwebs. While some people may suffer a gradual deterioration of peripheral vision, others may report sudden onset, short-term tunnel vision.
The following list offers some of the most common causes of tunnel vision:
- Ocular disease. Loss of peripheral vision is often the effect of a medical condition affecting the eye, most commonly glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
- Occlusions or “eye strokes.” Eye strokes occur when blood flow to the retina is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Tunnel vision in one eye may be a symptom of an eye stroke and should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible.
- Concussion, stroke, or injury. Tunnel vision can result from head injury and may be a sign of brain damage. Individuals who have suffered a concussion, stroke, or injury may notice sudden onset tunnel vision as a symptom and should contact a physician immediately.
- Migraines or headaches. Some form of visual impairment accompanies roughly one in three instances of migraine. Tunnel vision in one or both eyes can appear with a migraine or headache.
- Aging. Individuals over the age of 60 are more likely to experience tunnel vision, as peripheral vision begins to degenerate and reaction times slow with age.
- Stress or anxiety. People under high levels of stress, especially those who struggle with anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may experience short-term tunnel vision as a symptom of anxiety.
Consult a trusted physician if you have suffered short-term or continuing peripheral vision loss. Your eye doctor will administer a visual field test to measure the scope of your eyesight, checking for blind spots and assessing your ability to see out of the corners of your eyes.
Staying Safe on the Road
While tunnel vision may be the result of a medical condition requiring treatment by a healthcare professional, there are some simple steps you can take to decrease the chances of experiencing impaired vision behind the wheel. By being aware of the dangers of tunnel vision and best practices for safe driving, you can help reduce risk to yourself and others.
- Drive during the day. Whenever possible, avoid night driving. Driving at night can trigger or compound ocular issues and sensitivity, and places increased overall stress on the eyes.
- Take breaks. Changing your conditions, shifting your focus, and allowing your mind, eyes, and body to readjust will have a powerfully positive impact on your ability to drive safely.
- Rest your eyes. There are several strategies you can use to mitigate eye strain, including techniques like cupping your palms over your eyes, focusing alternately on objects near and distant, or practicing the 20-20-20 Pulling over and using an easy eye relaxion trick can offer immediate relief and prevent long-term damage.
- Don’t drive under stress. Try to avoid getting behind the wheel when you are feeling stressed or anxious. When you are driving, make efforts to create a stress-free environment for yourself, even if it is something as simple as listening to relaxing music or breathing mindfully.
- Wear glasses. If you use corrective eyewear, make sure that you are wearing the appropriate glasses or contact lenses whenever you operate a vehicle. An anti-reflective coating on the lens of glasses can also help to reduce glare and ease eye discomfort.
- Use aids. Eyedrops for dryness or pressure, sunglasses for brightness, and even your car visor for sun glare are all uncomplicated, effective methods of reducing eye strain.
- Be aware of your condition. Stay tuned in to what your body is telling you, and never risk driving unsafely if you believe you may be physically or mentally compromised.
- Don’t drive under the influence. Tunnel vision can also be a side effect of substance abuse. Do not operate a vehicle if you have been impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Reduce speed. Under any conditions, the greater your speed, the more your clarity of side vision will be diminished. At high speeds, objects in your periphery will appear blurry. It is especially important to reduce speed at night when vision problems and retinal stress are worsened.
- Be aware of your state’s legal requirements. In the state of Maryland, you must have a continuous field of vision of at least 140 degrees to qualify for an unrestricted driver’s license.
Seek Legal Guidance from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC
If you have been involved in an auto accident, you understand that determining the cause of a vehicular crash can be a complicated process. Numerous and wide-ranging factors, including bodily conditions such as tunnel vision, need to be taken into consideration when investigating a collision. If you believe your accident may have been caused by another driver’s negligence, our team at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC is ready to help you seek compensation for your losses. Contact us today to set up an obligation-free consultation.